With the shot clock winding down, Steve Blake found himself with hardly enough time to react, let alone release a shot.
Portland guard Nicolas Batum blocked his mid-range jumper with two seconds left, but Blake still found a way. The ball landed in his hands, he stepped behind the arc and nailed a three-pointer from the right wing.
Plenty of other things demanded attention in the Lakers' 103-92 victory Monday at Staples Center over the Trail Blazers. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak released a statement stating the organization will conduct business leading into the March 15 trading deadline without input from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. With better ball movement, a 35-7 first-quarter lead offered a temporary refuge from Bryant's frustration with the front office and Gasol's uncertain playing future. The Lakers earned a double-digit victory just a night after losing by a similar margin to the Phoenix Suns on the road, further illustrating the team's disparity between playing at home (14-2) and away (5-11).
But Blake's three-pointer, which gave the Lakers a 74-55 third-quarter lead, revealed everything about his season-high 17 points on six-of-nine shooting overall (and five-of-six mark from three-point range) in 21 minutes. It showcased his quick reaction time, his rhythm and his sharp shooting — three elements that appeared absent in the past five games after returning from a rib injury that had kept him sidelined for 13 games. Blake averaged five points on 31.4% shooting during that stretch, a sharp contrast to the 7.3 points on 40.2% shooting he provided through 12 games before his injury.
"I wasn't totally 100%," Blake said about his return. "There were parts of my game I couldn't do. Changing direction fast was tough for me. I'm getting able to do that again. Being weaker than I was, I hadn't been able to lift weights for a month and really get my body to the condition I need it to be. I'm starting to get back to where I was before I got hurt."