For LeBron James, his showing in a disappointing Lakers loss to the Trail Blazers on Sunday certainly was not bad. He had a season-high 29 points on 11-for-20 shooting, with a season-low three turnovers, plus nine rebounds and six assists.
Still, there was a sense throughout the game that James was bothered by Portland defensive ace Derrick Jones Jr., who was brought to the Blazers as a free agent to be the tough wing defender the team was lacking. Jones was only 1-for-9 shooting on the night, but played nearly 37 minutes because of his tough defense on James, consistently picking up James full-court.
ALL the latest Los Angeles Lakers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!
After the game, Jones was asked about whether James was getting mad at the intensity of his defensive effort.
“I guess he’s a great actor,” Jones said. “He don’t show it. He play the world.”
"I guess he's a great actor. He don't show it. He play the world." — Derrick Jones Jr. on whether LeBron was annoyed with his defense tonight.
— Derrick Jones Jr. Ministry Of Truth (@blazerbanter) December 29, 2020
Derrick Jones Had Key Blocked Shot on LeBron James
Jones recorded one of the toughest blocks in recent memory against James, using one of LeBron’s own staples—the chase-down block—against him. At the end of the third quarter, with the Lakers clinging to a one-point lead, James left Jones behind on a screen by Montrezl Harrell and drove to the rim. James went up for a spinning layup, but by the time he released the ball, Jones came flying in from behind, swatting it away.
DJJ came out of no where 😳 pic.twitter.com/ZPmXtvBky5
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 29, 2020
It was Jones’ second block of the night on James. He had three blocks all together.
“I picked him up full court every time,” Jones said. “That’s what I am going to do, to everybody. I don’t care if I get under anybody’s skin, that’s what I am here for. I am going to pick you up full-court and if you get mad, you better not show it because I’m gonna keep doing it.”
Jones was whistled for four fouls on the night and lamented that after the game.
“I think I did OK,” Jones said. “I could have kept my hands to myself, the ref called a lot of fouls today. Just try to keep my hands away, play with my body and keep my hands out of the play so I don’t get no fouls called.”
Coach Frank Vogel: ‘We Were Kind of Stuck in Mud’
The Lakers seemed to be a little sluggish in general on Monday night, playing in the second half of their first back-to-back of this shortened season. They will have four more back-to-backs ahead in the first half of the schedule, which is only laid out until early March as of now.
They had a season-low 20 assists, to 27 for Portland, as the crisp ball movement of the past two games went missing.
“We were kind of stuck in mud a little bit,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I don’t know (why). We just had trouble sustaining that intensity.”
The Lakers also did something they did not do for the entirety of last season—lost a game despite holding a lead heading into the fourth quarter. The team was 57-0 when leading after three quarters last year, but could not hold its 85-84 lead heading into the fourth on Monday.
The Lakers were 57-0 last season (including the playoffs) when leading after three quarters. Tonight, they led 85-84 heading into the 4th Q and lost 115-107. New season, indeed.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 29, 2020
READ NEXT: Lakers Drop Big Injury News on Anthony Davis