Five things to take from Lakers' 107-96 loss to Portland Trail Blazers
1. The Lakers collapsed in the third quarter. Trace everything surrounding the Lakers' 107-96 loss Thursday to the Portland Trail Blazers to the second half. They led, 56-52, at haltime, shot a sizzling 24 of 38 from the field (63.1%) and appeared very comfortable playing at an uncharacteristically fast pace. But that foundation soon fell apart. The Lakers (4-4) were outscored, 32-18. They shot five of 19 from the field. And they had no chance at stopping anyone in transition.
2. The Lakers' turnovers and poor three-point shooting continues. The Lakers' main weakness involves stopping fast-break points. They simply don't have the speed and athleticism, and getting in a track meet with Portland in the first half only suggested a disaster would ensue. That's why committing 13 turnovers and going zero of 11 from three-point range hardly proves to be a successful formula.
The turnovers appear most troubling because it shows the Lakers hardly look comfortable with the offense seven games into the season. With Bryant committing four of them, it also shows the torn ligament in his right wrist will be an issue for a while. Meanwhile, the Lakers' poor three-point shooting shows they can't rest their fortunes on such a skill. They needed to upgrade this area from last season, but they can't force the issue.
3. Double-digit efforts from Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum were solid. Credit Bryant for receiving enough treatment and altering his stroke enough to score 30 points on 13-of-24 shooting. Blame him for his four turnovers. Credit Bynum for duplicating another double-double with 21 points on nine-of-16 shooting and 12 rebounds. But fault him for missing his last five shots of the game.
Still, all in all, good work from both players. Bryant operated well in the offense by receiving shots in the mid to low post. Although Bynum faded in the second half, he appeared aggressive in getting post position. For those worried about his health, don't worry yet. He landed awkwardly on his left ankle to close the first half, but walked to the locker room just fine. Add in Pau Gasol's 19 points on seven-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds, and it's clear the Lakers' Big Three can coexist. But the Lakers' loss to Portland also illustrates they need more depth.
4. The Lakers offered zero bench support. Metta World Peace could neither shoot (zero of five) nor stop Gerald Wallace (31 points on 13-of-19 shooting). Steve Blake offered nothing from three-point range (zero of five) and only looked impressive on a shot-clock beating turnaround jumper. And Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono proved to be complete non-factors. Yes, Josh McRoberts helped provide energy with this unit. But his absence because of an injured left toe hardly excuses the reserves' disappearing act.
5. The Lakers look weak at small forward. World Peace, Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks couldn't defend Wallace, provided little to no offense and yield such a non-presence that Lakers Coach Mike Brown continuously shuffled them in and out of the lineup. It's not exactly a good thing the starting spot between Barnes and Ebanks remains influx.
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant pulls up for a shot over Portland's Wesley Matthews (2) and Gerald Wallace in the first half Thursday night in Portland. Credit: Steve Dykes / EPA