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The Portland Trail Blazers used a balanced attack to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 115-107 on Monday night to begin their four-game trip to California.

Damian Lillard led the way with 31 points, but there were other big performances as well, starting with Gary Trent Jr. scoring 28 points off the bench on 10 of 14 shooting overall and 7 of 11 shooting from three-point range. Cheap CJ McCollum Jersey added 20 points and 11 assists, while Jusuf Nurkic and Cheap Enes Kanter Jersey each finished with double-doubles. Nurkic had 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Kanter scored 12 points to go with 14 boards.

The Blazers (2-1) fell behind 30-22 after the first quarter, but Trent’s 16 points in the second quarter helped spark the Blazers to a 58-54 halftime lead. The Lakers (2-2) then closed the gap and led 85-84 heading to the fourth quarter, but Portland took control in the final period.

The teams shot similar percentages overall (Blazers 46.7%, Lakers 47.1%), but the Blazers hit 16 of 46 threes compared with the Lakers’ 10 of 27.

LeBron James led the Lakers with 29 points and also had nine rebounds and six assists. Dennis Schroder added 24 points, while Anthony Davis pitched in 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Here’s a recap of how the game unfolded.

NBA Staples Center, CA
FINAL
Portland
Trail Blazers
115-107
Los Angeles
Lakers

Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Lakers
1 2 3 4
22 36 26 31
30 24 31 22
Total
115
107
Tue Dec 29 Status: Final
STATS
LIVE UPDATES RECAP

FINAL: TRAIL BLAZERS 115, LAKERS 107

— Lillard hits a layup. Dennis Schroder’s jumper is good, and the Blazers’ lead is 108-103. Lillard’s floater falls, and he’s fouled. He converts, and the Blazers go up 111-103 with 2:17 left. Montrezl Harrell scores inside, and it’s 111-105. The clock goes under 2 minutes. Nurkic drives past Davis for the layup. It’s 113-105 with 1:30 to go. LeBron James hits a couple of free throws, and it’s a 113-107 Blazers lead. It’s a Blazers shot-clock violation with 58.6 seconds left. The play is under review. And the call stands. Lakers ball with 59.5 seconds to go. James’ three is off. Nurkic secures the rebound. McCollum misses the three, but Nurkic taps it out. Nurkic hits the jumper, and the Blazers lead it 115-107 with 20 seconds to go. James’ three is short, and that will do it. The Blazers beat the Lakers 115-107 and improve to 2-1 on the season. L.A. falls to 2-2.

— Out of the timeout, the Lakers lose it out of bounds. After a Blazers miss, the Lakers lose it out of bounds again. McCollum short with his three-pointer. LeBron James hits a three, and the Lakers cut Portland’s lead to 98-94. An Enes Kanter miss from the lane. James drives and scores. Now under 6 minutes to play. Lillard’s three is short. Montrezl Harrell scores inside, plus he’s fouled. Timeout Blazers with 5:34 left. Harrell will get a free throw after the break. Harrell hits the free throw to put the Lakers up 99-98. But Jusuf Nurkic drives and scores to put the Blazers back up 100-99. Lillard fires from three with the shot clock running down, and he hits. The Blazers lead it 103-99. Nurkic rebounds a Lakers miss, and Lillard’s three is way short as the clock rolls under 4 minutes to play. Anthony Davis makes a layup. McCollum nails a three. The Blazers lead it 106-101 with 3:05 left. The Blazers take a timeout.

— LeBron James drives, misses the layup and thought he was fouled. No call, and he draws a technical foul. CJ McCollum ties the game at 85-85 on the technical free throw. The Lakers go back in front 87-85. Then a Cheap Gary Trent Jersey jumper ties it at 87-87. Trent hits a three to give the Blazers a 90-87 lead, but then James answers. Then Trent with another three. James fouled, and he splits the free throws to cut Portland’s lead to 93-91 with 8:34 to play in the game. Trent is on fire. He hits another three, this time from the right wing. He has 28 points for the game, and the Blazers are up 96-91 with 8:12 to go. Timeout Lakers.

END 3RD QUARTER: LAKERS 85, TRAIL BLAZERS 84

— Anthony Davis scores inside for the Lakers to make it 75-71. Enes Kanter with a baseline shot that’s good. Then Davis drives, scores and draws the foul on Kanter. Davis converts the three-point play to give L.A. a 78-73 lead with 3:24 left in the third. Rodney Hood nails a three. But a Dennis Schroder layup and free throw makes it an 81-76 Lakers lead. Now Covington and Harrell with a tie-up. Gary Trent Jr. races down the floor and Kyle Kuzma with the hard foul on him. Trent makes 1 of 2 free throws, and it’s 81-77. Anthony Davis takes a hard fall. Hood’s three is off. Schroder makes a driving layup. Lillard banks in a three-pointer, and it’s 83-80 with 1:30 left in the third. Hood feeds Kanter for the layup, and the Lakers’ lead is down to 83-82 with 1:09 left in the quarter. In the closing seconds of the quarter, Derrick Jones Jr. with a beautiful block from behind on LeBron James. The game heads to the fourth with the Lakers leading 85-84.

— CJ McCollum hits a three to end the Lakers’ scoring run. The Blazers are down 69-64 with 6:53 to go in the third. Marc Gasol scores on the layup and he’s fouled. He misses the free throw, though. McCollum drives but can’t finish, and then it’s an alley-oop from LeBron James to Anthony Davis. Then Nurkic scores inside. On the Blazers’ next trip down, Lillard scores. The Lakers are up 73-68. Lillard dribbles across halfcourt and pulls up for a deep three that’s good. A bit later, Nurkic’s three is well short. The Lakers take a timeout with 4:31 to play in the third. They lead it 73-71.

Cheap Damian Lillard Jersey with a nice drive, but he loses the handle and turns it over. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope misses a three and the Blazers have it back. Lillard takes a pass from McCollum, dribbles once and then rises for a three that’s good. The Blazers go up 61-54 early in the third. The Blazers score consecutive baskets, the latter on a LeBron James dunk, and then Caldwell-Pope’s three ties the game at 61-61. Jusuf Nurkic called for a clear path foul on Dennis Schroder. He makes both free throws, and the Lakers regain the lead at 63-61 with 9:03 to go in the third. On the Lakers’ possession after the clear path foul, Schroder drives and draws the foul on Covington. His shot rolls off, though. The free throws are good, and the Lakers go up 65-61. A Lakers steal and a Caldwell-Pope layup. Then McCollum misses a three. The Lakers are on a 15-0 run after Schroder scores again to make it 69-61. The Blazers take a timeout with 7:34 left in the third.

HALFTIME: TRAIL BLAZERS 58, LAKERS 54

— At the half, Gary Trent Jr. leads the Blazers with 16 points off the bench, while CJ McCollum has 13 points and six assists. Damian Lillard has 10 points. Enes Kanter with six points and 10 rebounds. For the Lakers, LeBron James has 14 points and five rebounds, and Dennis Schroder has 11 points and four assists.

— LeBron James whistled for a non-shooting foul on Jusuf Nurkic. The Blazers inbound it, and Nurkic feeds Derrick Jones Jr., who misses the dunk but is fouled. Jones splits the free throws. James scores a layup. Covington feeds Jones for a dunk. Then Schroder hits a three, and the Blazers’ lead is down to 52-50. Schroder’s free throws tie up the game at 52-52 with 1:51 left in the half. Covington drives past Anthony Davis and dunks it. Then he gets the putback layup off of Lillard’s missed baseline jumper. Covington steals from James on his drive. Lillard is fouled, and he knocks down both free throws to give the Blazers at 58-52 lead. Schroder drives and scores for L.A. The half ends, and the Blazers lead it 58-54.

— CJ McCollum drives and finger rolls it in to give the Blazers a 43-35 lead. Dennis Schroder scores for the Lakers and it’s 43-37. Trent makes a layup and now has 16 points. Talen Horton-Tucker scores for the Lakers. The Blazers lead 45-39. Montrezl Harrell is fouled by Anfernee Simons and hits both free throws. McCollum drops in a jumper. Horton-Tucker scores. Covington’s three is off. The Blazers lead 47-43. Now under 4 minutes to go in the half. Lillard hits a jumper, and then Schroder scores for the Lakers. Portland leads 49-45 with 3:30 to play in the half.

Cheap Gary Trent Jr. Jersey hits a foul-line jumper to cut the Lakers’ lead to 30-24. Then CJ McCollum’s jumper makes it 30-26. As Cheap Anfernee Simons Jersey feeds Enes Kanter for the layup, the Blazers are on a 6-0 run to begin the second quarter and now are down just two at 30-28. Trent hits a three from the corner, and the Blazers go up 31-30 with 9:17 to go in the first half. The Blazers are on a 12-0 run to start the second after McCollum hits a three. But then Kuzma answers, and the Blazers’ lead is 34-33. Kanter scores, and he has six points and seven rebounds already. Shortly later, Trent drops in a three from the wing, and Portland’s lead is 39-35. On the Blazers’ next trip, Jones has his shot erased by LeBron James. McCollum is fouled and hits both free throws, and the Blazers lead 41-35 with 7:12 to go in the quarter.

END 1ST QUARTER: LAKERS 30, TRAIL BLAZERS 22

— Gary Trent Jr. drops in a corner three, and the Blazers have cut the Lakers’ lead to 20-15. Trent hits another three, and it’s 20-18. Cheap Wesley Matthews Jersey three is off. Robert Covington misses a three. And then Matthews scores on a layup. Cheap Rodney Hood Jersey called for a charge on his drive. Now 1:57 left in the first quarter. Montrezl Harrell dunks it for the Lakers. Then Enes Kanter scores on a layup. Now James gets the call on what could have been a charge. He converts the three-point play to make it 27-20. Rodney Hood scores inside with the friendly roll. Kuzma hits a three. And in the closing seconds of the quarter, Derrick Jones Jr. draws a foul. It’s a non-shooting foul, though. And Trent’s three is off to end the quarter. Lakers lead it 30-22 heading to the second quarter.

— Another three for Caldwell-Pope makes it 17-5. Cheap Jusuf Nurkic Jersey hook shot in the lane makes it 17-7. Lillard with a good defensive play against Schroder to knock the ball away on his drive. Caldwell-Pope hits a third three. Lakers go up 20-7. Lillard is fouled while shooting a three, and he’ll head to the line for free throws. Lillard converts all three, and the L.A. lead is 20-10 with 6:07 to go in the first. The Lakers turn it over. The Blazers give it right back. A couple of possessions later, McCollum drives and scores. The Lakers take a timeout with 4:17 to play in the first as they lead 20-12.

— The Lakers jump out to a quick 6-0 lead. Cheap Derrick Jones Jersey draws a foul and makes both free throws to make it 6-2. LeBron James knocks down a deep three-pointer to make it 9-2. The Blazers miss their first four threes, but then Damian Lillard hits one from straightaway. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope answers, and the Lakers lead 12-5. James steals from McCollum and gets a breakaway dunk for a 14-5 Lakers lead. The Blazers take a timeout with 8:23 to go in the first quarter.

Blazers starters: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Derrick Jones Jr., Cheap Robert Covington Jersey, Jusuf Nurkic.

Lakers starters: Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol.

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The Portland Trail Blazers guard is entering his third season in the NBA, a time when the 21-year-old loaded with talent could be expected to flourish. It’s altogether likely, however, that Simons could develop into a baller this season and still not receive enough minutes to adequately announce his arrival while playing behind Lillard and Cheap CJ McCollum Jersey.

It’s a tough reality for Simons. Had he been selected in 2018 NBA draft by a team that actually needed a guard, Simons might already be a rising star. As it turned out, he ended up in Portland, where the potent backcourt duo of Lillard and McCollum run the show.

Many in that situation might become frustrated. So far, not Simons. He said he doesn’t worry about what he can’t control and instead values all that he can learn from Lillard and McCollum while continuing to prepare himself to seize the moment when his time to shine arrives.

“I love being here, I love being in Portland, learning from Dame and CJ,” Simons said. “That’s the best backcourt in the league. I think learning from them, especially as a young guy coming out of high school, I just want to soak in as much as I can and keep learning from them. And then when my opportunity comes to go out there and play, I’ll be ready and be able to compete at a high level.”

SIMONS IS THE BACKUP POINT GUARD — SORT OF

Many outside of the organization wondered if Portland would sign a veteran point guard to back up Lillard, especially given that Simons’ minutes were inconsistent last season and when he did play, he wasn’t always able to handle important minutes.

Trail Blazers vs Warriors
Anfernee Simons shoots a three-pointer as the Portland Trail Blazers face the Golden State Warriors in an NBA game at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. Sean Meagher/Staff

Neil Olshey, president of basketball operations, didn’t see things that way. He declared last week that he already had a backup point guard and it was Simons.

Lillard shared in that vote of confidence.

“Ant is super talented,” Lillard said. “He came in the league young and it takes time. It takes experience.”

Simons, the team’s first-round pick in 2018, didn’t play in college but instead attended a prep school before becoming eligible for the draft. He played just seven minutes per game in 20 outings as a rookie. Last season, his on-court time elevated to nearly 21 minutes per game over 70 games.

Along the way, Simons flashed some brilliant moments.

Nov. 2-10, 2019: Simons had the most productive stretch of his career, scoring in double figures five consecutive times while averaging 15.8 points per game. He shot 27 of 55 (49%) from the field and 12 of 28 (42.3%) from three-point distance.

Jan. 1 at Miami: Scored 19 points with four assists and four rebounds, plus two vicious dunks against the Heat.

Feb. 12 at Memphis: Scored a season-high 22 points with seven rebounds in 28 minutes while making 6 of 7 three-point attempts.

Still, when the season restarted at the NBA bubble, Simons’ play became greatly reduced while the minutes for Lillard and McCollum increased. Granted, each of the eight bubble seeding games had playoff implications for the Blazers, so it made sense for the team to lean heavily on Lillard and McCollum. But at the same time, there were moments when it seemed that having a reliable veteran backup point guard to give Lillard some relief would have been nice.

But that didn’t convince Olshey, Lillard and coach Terry Stotts that the Blazers should acquire such a player and block Simons’ development.

All three pointed out that the team’s true backup point guard is essentially McCollum. Lillard played 37 1/2 minutes last season. That left 10 1/2 minutes available at point guard that were mostly gobbled up by McCollum, whom Stotts called a very good backup point guard.

McCollum played 36 1/2 minutes per game, with Gary Trent Jr. seeing a lot of time as his backup at shooting guard.

So why, Olshey said, would the team spend money on a veteran point guard who would see little time and probably wouldn’t be better than Simons, whom the team regards as a potential future star?

Cheap Carmelo Anthony Jersey has started an informal petition for the Portland Trail Blazers to give him the No. 7 of the team. That number was last worn by Cheap Brandon Roy Jersey, one of the best players the Blazers and the league have seen in recent years. The shooting guard was something else, an incredible talent that couldn’t reach his full potential due to injuries.

After he retired from the league in 2013, nobody used that jersey on the Blazers but Melo wants to change that. While talking to reporters on media day, Anthony revealed his desire to use the No. 7 jersey, the number he used during his time with the New York Knicks. Back in the day, Melo explained that was the subtraction of his prior numbers, 22 and 15. Since neither is available on the Blazers, Melo has decided to make a push for No. 7.

“If Portland gives me number 7 this year, I’ll be happy. I’ll be thrilled. We need a petition for that. We need a petition, I need number 7.”

Last season he decided to wear #00 but this year things could change.

Some Blazers fans are cool with the idea and some are pushing for the team to make it happen. The NBA starts Dec. 22 and we’ll see what number the future Hall of Famer will be using.

Speaking of McCollum …

He is a prime example of a player who didn’t do much his first two seasons and then came into his own in Year 3. McCollum averaged under seven points per game during his first two seasons and then struck with 20.8 in his third season.

The differences between McCollum and Simons, however, are twofold. First, McCollum was afforded a chance to shine after the team didn’t re-sign guards Cheap Wesley Matthews Jersey or Arron Afflalo.

Also, McCollum’s third season came after having played four years of college basketball at Lehigh. Simons attended a prep school for one year before becoming draft-eligible and is only 21 now.

FOLLOWING TRENT’S EXAMPLE

Taken in the second round of the 2018 NBA draft was guard Gary Trent Jr., who unlike Simons had the benefit of playing at Duke. Still, he was taken much later than Simons, yet has become more of a factor sooner.

Gary Trent Jr., Anfernee Simons
Rookies Cheap Anfernee Simons Jersey, left, and Cheap Gary Trent Jr. Jersey dance during the Portland Trail Blazers’ annual preseason fan fest at the Moda Center on Sunday, September 30, 2018. Sean Meagher/Staff

Lillard last season raved about how much Trent had grown from his rookie year. Trent really blossomed at the bubble, where he shot the lights out, ultimately finishing the season at a team-high 41.8% on three-point field goal attempts.

Simons said what he has learned most from watching Trent’s ascension came at the defensive end. Trent’s aggressiveness on the perimeter, getting in the faces of scorers and relentlessly harassing them, has impressed Simons.

“That’s something that I really didn’t do last year that I should have,” Simons said. “I was more of a conservative (defender). Tried to not foul.”

That didn’t work out too well.

“I ended up getting a lot of fouls anyway,” said Simons, who averaged 1.9 personal fouls over 20.7 minutes played per game.

Simons said he hopes raising his defensive play will help make him more valuable, as it did Trent.

PG SUMMER SCHOOL

This leads us to the question of what Simons truly is as a player. He hasn’t really operated well as a backup point guard, averaging just 1.4 assists per game last season. That’s not very point guard-like. Simons is probably best described as a combo guard who leans more toward being a natural shooting guard.

“I think I can play both,” Simons said. “Growing up my natural position was the 2 because I could score the ball so well. So, I think eventually I can grow into being a point guard. But my natural position right now is the 2-guard, being able to score.”

Developing as a point guard could be a must for Simons to see more playing time this season.

He said he spent a lot of time this offseason in Santa Barbara, California, working diligently on developing his point guard skills. Reading defenses. Directing an offense. Making better decisions. Identifying passing angles.

Portland Trail Blazers vs Philadelphia 76ers
Cheap Damian Lillard Jersey (#0) chats with Anfernee Simons (#1) during a break in action as the Portland Trail Blazers face the Philadelphia 76ers an an NBA game at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Sean Meagher/Staff

Developing as a passer, he said, would make him more of a double threat and further enhance his scoring.

“Just trying to take the pressure off of myself from just trying to be a scorer every single time I come down the floor,” he said.

Lillard said he worked out with Simons during the offseason when they were in the same city and believes his time to shine is coming.

“It’s just a matter of being able to think the game fast, being able to be consistent, being able for the team to count on you, regularly,” Lillard said.

Simons said Lillard has been a good teacher, taking the time to explain the details of playing point guard.

“I think him being there and kind of coaching me up and teaching me everything has helped me out a lot this summer …” Simons said. “Him being in my corner is always a blessing.”

At some point this season, it’s likely that the Blazers will need Simons to step up in a meaningful game. The team won’t have a veteran to turn to, but will put its faith in a still-developing 21-year-old oozing with talent but short in experience.

“I believe in Ant,” Lillard said.

That vote of confidence could be enough to push Simons to greater heights.