Dennis Schroder's return sparks Lakers to losing-streak busting win

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Dan Woike
·4 min read
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Portland Trail Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. (2) defends against Los Angeles Lakers guard.
Lakers point guard Dennis Schroder, left, controls the ball in front of Portland Trail Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. during the second half of the Lakers' 102-93 win Friday at Staples Center. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Finally there was some good news.

Dennis Schroder, the Lakers starting point guard, returned as did some of the Lakers’ mojo, the team ending a four-game losing streak thanks to a dominant defensive performance in a 102-93 win against the Portland Trail Blazers.

It was the Lakers first win against a team currently in the top 8 of its conference since Feb. 4.

“Dennis gives us an automatic spark,” LeBron James said.

After missing the last four games because of the league’s health and safety protocols after exposure to someone who tested positive, Schroder returned at a perfect time.

“He’s such a complete player, a two-way player. He’s an elite defender so I think we certainly missed him on that side of the ball with his containment ability, but also just picking up full court and setting that tone,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said pregame. “But his ability to get to the paint and generate shots for others and score the basketball was missed as well.”

And for a team that had been stuck in a losing streak, any good news had to help psychologically.

Schroder was rusty, missing his first two shots before getting back on track to score six of his 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Lakers star LeBron James scores on a layup in front of Portland's Derrick Jones Jr.
Lakers star LeBron James scores on a layup in front of Portland's Derrick Jones Jr. during the first quarter on Friday. (Harry How / Getty Images)

“It’s really a two-way thing,” Vogel said after the game, praising Schroeder’s all-around impact.

And whether it was his return, the light minutes in a blowout loss at Utah or the team saying “enough” after a season-long slide, the Lakers looked like a team finally getting some footing.

While Anthony Davis is still on the bench in street clothes, and will be through at least the All-Star break, the team finally made good on Vogel’s claims that it had enough firepower to win.

The Lakers dominated the third quarter on both ends, James, Montrezl Harrell and Alex Caruso all making big plays on each side of the floor.

Through three quarters the Lakers had nine steals and seven blocks (James alone had four steals and three blocks) while keeping Portland in total control until a minor run late in the third.

James finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Lakers.

Ready, Dame, fire

Near the end of the second quarter, an off-the-ball whistle stopped the action as Damian Lillard casually went to the three-point line and took a practice shot.

After the net barely moved as the ball passed through, Caruso caught it and quickly fired it back up through the basket, hoping to undo the Portland star’s locked-in aim.

It didn’t work.

Lillard scored 24 in the first half, the last four coming on another three-point shot and the free throw that followed after Talen Horton-Tucker fouled the All-Star guard.

The Lakers, though, tightened their defense in the second half, holding Lillard to 11 points.

Sense of urgency

One of the few positives that the Lakers could take out of their loss to Utah on Wednesday was their start, one where they trailed by only a point after the first quarter thanks to plenty of pace and energy.

It had been a problem for the team during their recent problems — slow starts forcing uphill climbs back into games. But what happened in Utah wasn’t a revelation. Instead, maybe it’s an outlier.

On a night when Vogel hoped his team would play with a sense of urgency, the team didn’t find it early. The Lakers trailed 13-2 before the Lakers truly arrived in the game, spending the rest of the quarter chipping away at the Portland lead.

Thanks to that slow start, the Lakers’ first lead didn’t come until after the mid-point of the second quarter.

Lakers add size

After waiving Quinn Cook earlier this week, the Lakers filled one of their two available roster spots by signing 6-foot-11 center Damian Jones to a 10-day contract.

Jones, who was released by Phoenix on Tuesday, played 14 games with the Suns this season after stints in Atlanta and Golden State. Jones, 25, has averaged 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 118 games.

“He brings vertical spacing on both sides of the ball, the lob threat at the rim but also the verticality and shot blocking at the rim as well,”

Vogel said. “He definitely has a skill set that can help us. And he's a talented young man and a very polished young man. We're excited to take this look at him for these next 10 days.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.