Lakers return home vs. Blazers looking to build momentum
November 12 - With a plan to lean into for the road ahead, the Los Angeles Lakers return home Sunday to take on the Portland Trail Blazers feeling better about their situation after a shaky start to the season.
All it took was a focused fourth quarter Friday in a 122-119 road victory over the Phoenix Suns for the Lakers to walk off the court with optimism for the first time in more than a week.
Los Angeles lost its first three games of a four-game road trip, worrying about abysmal first quarters and injuries that have created makeshift rotations in the early going.
The Lakers had something close to a full squad Friday, although Jarred Vanderbilt (heel) still has not played this season. Rui Hachimura is back after missing four games because of a concussion, and Anthony Davis played Friday after missing Wednesday's loss at Houston with a sore hip. Davis is probable for Sunday. Jaxson Hayes (ankle) also was back Friday after missing two games.
To address the slow starts, Los Angeles head coach Darvin Ham moved guard Austin Reaves into a reserve role and promoted the bigger Cam Reddish into a starting spot. Both produced with Reddish scoring 17 points, including a decisive 3-pointer with 1:10 remaining, and Reaves adding 15 points.
"It was good to just finally get over the hump at this early stage of the season," said Lakers star LeBron James, who had 32 points and 11 rebounds against the Suns, but still saw his team trail 34-25 after one quarter. "We've been playing from behind in a lot of our games and haven't been able to take the lead. That was a good feeling."
James also had an injury scare Friday when he left the court with left shin pain in the first quarter, but returned in the second period. He is questionable for Sunday's game due to a left calf contusion.
The Trail Blazers have shown mixed results in the post-Damian Lillard era, losing their first three games before going on a three-game winning streak. They have now lost their last two but took the Sacramento Kings into overtime on the road Wednesday before they lost 121-118.
Jerami Grant leads the Blazers with 22.8 points per game, including a season-best 38 against the Kings. New arrival Deandre Ayton has a team-leading 12.9 rebounds to go along with 11.4 points. Shaedon Sharpe has scored 19.9 points per game.
The Blazers are trying to work through early injury woes. Guard Anfernee Simons (thumb) is out until next month, while rookie Scoot Henderson (ankle) could be out through Thanksgiving. Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) is day-to-day after an injury Wednesday, while Robert Williams III (knee) is out for the season.
Grant has been raising his production on a per-game basis, increasing his point total in each of the first eight games from 13 in the season opener to 38 against the Kings on 12-of-25 shooting.
Under the circumstances, Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups considered it a winning effort Wednesday.
"I'm just proud of us; we did all we could," Billups said. "We left it out there. Malcolm went down and that obviously hurt us. We played a lot of people a lot of minutes they're not used to playing but we kept going, we kept going, we kept going. We had our chances."