Key Reserves: G Brandon Roy, G Rudy Fernandez
Injuries: C Marcus Camby (Neck, Day to Day)
The Lakers (55-23) play the past three games has been as gloomy as the Pacific Northwest skies. After running of a 17-1 record after the All-Star break, the Lakers have been a little tripped up of late, losing their last three games, two of them against non-playoff teams. Friday night’s match up against the Blazers (46-33) doesn’t get much easier.
The recent purple and gold struggles have been of their own doing. The team has looked uninspired, unfocused and flat out careless during their latest losing streak. In the three games against Denver, Utah and Golden State, the Lakers have averaged 18 turnovers while scoring 90 points or less. It seems that Andrew Bynum is the lone bright spot amongst a team full of disappointment. Bynum has been a beast on the boards, averaging nearly 19 per game throughout the Lakers fourth losing streak of three or more games this season.
The Blazers always give the Lakers more trouble than any other squad in the NBA. The Rose Garden is always packed with a crazed fan base seething with inspired “Beat L.A.” chants.
Portland’s starting back court of Andre Miller and Wesley Matthews is a little different without a healthy Brandon Roy. Roy has been decimated by injuries nearly all season long, but Matthews, the Blazers big off-season signing, has stepped in and filled the role better than many expected. Andre Miller is a savvy veteran who does a great job initiating the offense and distributing the ball. Roy has been getting limited minutes off the bench, but does have big shot making capabilities, if the game comes down to one final possession, don’t be surprised if Roy’s number is called.
The Blazers front court received an enormous boost with the acquisition of Gerald Wallace. Wallace is a do-it-all forward who really hurts the Lakers with his superior athleticism. SF Nicolas Batum is a pest both on the defensive end and from beyond the arc. Batum plays solid, lock-down defense and does a nice job stretching the floor on offense with his three-point shooting. It seems that LaMarcus Aldridge never misses when he plays against the Lakers. Aldridge was considered one of the biggest All-Star snubs when he was left off of the Western Conference roster, and it looks like he has taken it personally. Aldridge is averaging 21 points and eight rebounds post All-Star break.
One weakness that can and should be taken advantage of with this Portland squad is their depth. After Roy and Rudy Fernandez, the Blazers bench gets very thin. Head coach Nate McMillan only likes to go seven deep with Camby out, but recently has been using PG Patty Mills out of St. Mary’s to spell Andre Miller. Lamar Odom and the Killer B’s must expose this clear advantage.
Three Key’s to a Laker Victory:
1. Focus and Energy – The Lakers have looked very unfocused and lack a collective positive energy.
2. Cut Down on Turnovers – This also gets back to the first point, the more focus, the less turnovers, and the more scoring opportunities for the Lakers.
3. Expose Portland’s Bench – The Lakers bench guys need to have a solid group effort, and not only keep leads, but extend them.