Editor's Note: For the latest on the travel update situation for the team and tonight's Blazers/Cavs game jump to the bottom of this story.
LOS ANGELES -- D'Angelo Russell and the Los Angeles Lakers learned a valuable lesson about the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at Staples Center: Don't poke the bear.
Russell, the second-year guard for the Lakers, incited Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard with elbows that led to some nose-to-nose words in the third quarter, resulting in a stunning awakening for the All-Star guard and an about face for the Portland team that led to a rousing 108-87 victory over the Lakers.
"He poked the bear, and you see what happened the rest of the game,'' Lillard said.
At the time of the exchange, Lillard was 1-for-11 with two points. After double-technicals were assessed to Lillard and Russell, Lillard scored 11 consecutive points and the Blazers turned a 60-59 deficit into a runaway victory, their 10th consecutive over the Lakers.
Lillard finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists on 7-of-21 shooting and said his confrontation with Russell "absolutely" inspired him.
"Since last game he has been doing little slick elbows,'' Lillard said of Russell. "And I play the game clean. I’m from Oakland, I don’t get with that extra stuff. Nobody can do just what they want with me.''
Lillard said the nagging elbows escalated in the third when he felt Russell took a cheap shot after blocking Lillard's shot. As Lillard returned from going out of bounds in the aftermath of the shot, he said Russell elbowed him in the back.
"I was walking to my spot and I felt like he went out of his way to get that elbow back in there again,'' Lillard said.
That's when the two came nose-to-nose.
"I told him: 'That aint going to fly,’'' Lillard said. "I wasn’t interested in anything else that was said after that.''
Lillard, who missed his first eight shots and 10 of his first 11, hit a three-pointer with 8:20 left in the third to give the Blazers a 62-60 lead and start his string of 11 consecutive points. By the time the third quarter smoke cleared, the Blazers had outscored Los Angeles 23-12, turning a 57-55 halftime deficit into a 78-69 lead.
Lillard's teammates just smiled and shook their head when recounting the Lillard exchange.
"Don't poke the bear,'' Maurice Harkless said.
Added CJ McCollum: "Yeah, that wasn't smart on his part. That wasn't smart.''
Russell finished with 9 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists on 4-of-14 shooting. But his biggest statistic might be the elbows that poked the Blazers' bear.
"I don’t know what made him feel like that was going to be accepted or like I wouldn’t take exception,'' Lillard said. "I took it as a challenge. I was struggling shooting the ball and I was getting good looks and maybe he felt it was because of him, or whatever, but there’s levels. I got a little more aggressive and the team got more aggressive and we pulled it off.''
Once again, the Blazers were led by the torrid shooting of McCollum, who continued his scoring spree with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting. It was the sixth consecutive game of scoring 25 or more points, tying McCollum with Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge for the franchise record. Harkless added 14 points and three blocks and Al-Farouq Aminu had eight points and a season-high 15 rebounds.
Portland (17-23) remained in a tie with Sacramento (16-22) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, while improving its road record to 7-15. The Blazers and Miami have played the most road games in the NBA. The Lakers (15-27) saw their two-game winning streak snapped.
The Lakers were dreadful in the second half. Portland outscored Los Angeles 53-30 as the Lakers shot 12-of-41 (29.3 percent). Russell went 0-for-7 from three-point range and Nick Young 2-of-9, both of the guards hoisting jumpers without a conscience.
The Blazers were within 57-55 at half after Amiu hit a three-pointer with 32.9 seconds left, and had to feel good about their standing after the Lakers led by as many as eight and were hot from the three-point line, where they made 7-of-12.
Next up: Cleveland at Blazers, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (KGW/ESPN)
Blazers are currently in Sea-Tac hotel according to team spokesman. Plan is to fly to PDX early this afternoon.— Jason Quick (@jwquick) January 11, 2017