At halftime of Saturday’s 116-108 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers held a four-point lead. But when it came to free throw attempts, the Trail Blazers were actually in a steep hole against the top-seeded team in the Western Conference, trailing the Lakers 31-8.
“As far as the free throw differential, particularly at halftime, I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a game where it was that big,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said after the loss, which put his eighth-seeded squad down 2-1 in the first-round series, with Game 4 slated for Monday. “And certainly it had an impact on the first half, when I think the differential was 23. That had an impact on the game.”
That deficit remained wide throughout the game. In fact, the Lakers shot 24 more free throws than the Trail Blazers, marking their widest disparity in attempts at the line in a postseason game since a 2008 playoff game in which they shot 27 more free throws than the Utah Jazz, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Ultimately, the Lakers shot 28-of-43 from the free throw line, and Portland shot 18-of-19. The Lakers won despite missing 15 free throws, the most misses by any team in a playoff win since 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“The discrepancy in free throws is something that’s out of our control,” said Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard. “Last game, we came out, [and] they played a really physical game. They played a really aggressive game. That led to a blowout victory for them.
“Tonight, we came in saying we weren’t going to get bullied and let them out-physical and out-aggressiveness us, and maybe sometimes we did foul, but they’re a physical team as well. When a team is living at the free throw line like they did tonight as a team, it’s going to be hard to win a game against a team that’s as good as they are.”
Lillard played his first game since dislocating his left index finger in Thursday’s Game 2 loss. He finished with a team-high 34 points on 8-of-20 shooting, including 5-of-11 from the 3-point line. He tallied seven assists and five rebounds.
“Obviously, I dislocated it, so it’s going to have some effect on ballhandling,” Lillard said of his finger. “Tonight, the biggest thing I felt was just going up to shoot, when I was gathering the ball, I was uncomfortable. Sometimes I would subconsciously try to ease up on it, so I would lose the ball a little bit. When I was making moves, in the middle of my dribble, I would ease up on it because I would feel the pain, and I would lose the ball a little bit. It kind of stopped me in my tracks. I did as much treatment as I could, and I tried to just ignore it. But once you decide to step out there, it is what it is.”
Despite being in a 2-1 series hole, Lillard said he isn’t discouraged.
“I’ve been in worse situations in a series,” he said. “We’ve got to get the next game. We get the next one, and it’s a tied series. That’s perfectly fine with me.”
Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, who scored 20 points, including 13 in the third quarter, echoed Lillard’s point.
“Oh, we’re good,” Anthony said. “I think we’re good. It’s only 2-1. We have a series. We’ve got to make some adjustments. Game 4, we know the implications on what that means. … We’re sitting in a good situation. We’re not concerned. We know what we have to do.
“We’ll be ready [for] Game 4. I thought we were ready tonight. [Anthony Davis] got it going, LeBron [James] got it going. They made their adjustments, and we’ve just got to make ours and get ready for Game 4.”