We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 116-106 loss at Portland in a Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back.
Dwight Howard’s free throw percentage after an impressive 15 of 19 performance at the stripe. This came a night after he made only 3 of 14 (21 percent) in the season opener. Howard credited the massive improvement to focusing on his elbow and follow through, as opposed to just thinking “I gotta make it” against Dallas. He was nearly as efficient from the field, making 9 of 15 shots towards 33 total points, plus 14 rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal. Howard is not at full capacity just yet after playing in only two preseason games, and that showed up more on D than O, but he’s getting stronger by the day.
Portland’s shooting percentage, a number that’s simply far too high for L.A. to concede. Kobe Bryant explained what’s been going on with the defense after two games: “Just figuring out how to pick each other up out on the floor. We’re not the quickest team in the world, and a lot of teams now have very quick point guards and quick wings, and we just have to work on supporting each other, being there for each other, keeping the ball out of the paint and guys away from the rim.” Certainly, rookie PG Damian Lillard and Mavs PG Darren Collison attacked the Lakers in pick and roll sets and tried to push the tempo, just as OKC and Denver did in the 2012 postseason.
Points scored by Bryant on 10 of 20 shooting despite battling through foot pain while playing nearly 39 minutes in the second night of a back-to-back. Bryant told me after the game that the foot he strained on Oct. 21 was really hurting him, but he was determined to stay on the floor. He opened the game by hitting 6 of 9 shots, including three first half three-pointers, but made only 4 of 11 in the second half as the pain increased.
Lakers turnovers, the biggest factor in the loss. Portland scored 28 points off those miscues, and committed only 12 themselves. Bryant (seven) and World Peace (six) had more than Portland.
Minutes played by Steve Nash before he had to leave the game for good with a contusion on his left leg. Nash collided with Lillard in the first half, and tried to tough it out by starting the third quarter. When he couldn’t move much laterally, he had to head back to the locker room. It’s not a serious injury, but is very painful. Nash said he hoped to play against the Clippers on Friday, but we’ll have to wait and see how he feels in the next two days.
Kobe Bryant’s team-best +/- rating in the game, with Pau Gasol close behind at +6. Some of that is deceptive, as the Lakers cut a huge lead in half in the final moments. Antawn Jamison’s -21 was a team worst.
Blazers starters in double figures in what was a balanced effort, led by 26 from Nic Batum and a 23-point, 11-assist debut from Lillard.