Lakers vs. Blazers Pre-Game: Lakers Back Home Against Portland

Portland Trail Blazers (28-17) at Los Angeles Lakers (29-18)
7:30 PM PST, March 23, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)

Blazers Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Nicolas Batum
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Joel Przybilla

Key Reserves: G Jamal Crawford, C Kurt Thomas, G Nolan Smith

Lakers Last Five: 3-2, W @ DAL, L @ HOU, L vs UTA, W vs MIN, W @ NO.
Blazers Last Five:
2-3, W vs MEM, L vs MIL, L @ OKC, W @ CHI, L @ NY.

The Lakers sure know when to kick it into high gear, turning it up against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night behind 50 percent shooting from distance, and 58.4 percent overall from the field. The victory could not have come at a better time given that the Lakers will play six of their next seven games at home, where they post a record of 19-3, trailing only the Miami Heat for the best record in the NBA. The home stand welcomes the new-look Portland Trail Blazers to town tonight. Portland has shown some life with impressive victories at Chicago against the league-best Bulls, and with a victory Thursday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Frontcourt: The Portland offense is built around big-man LaMarcus Aldridge. The guy just does it all. Down-low he is just plain unstoppable, boasting a turnaround jumper that few can block (if any), and a good mid-range game when he decides to pull a defender outside. He is not a physical player and runs the floor quite well. Despite the fact, he is quite capable of manning the center position when needed making him the example of a versatile big man. Aldridge is continuing where he left off from last season’s career year, averaging 21.4 points, and grabbing 8.0 rebounds per contest.

Alongside him is the lanky Nicolas Batum who stands at 6’8″ and weighs just 200 lbs. What you see here is pure offense with the potential for great defense. Batum is a catch and shoot guard converted to forward with Gerald Wallace being traded to the Nets last week. Batum can get trigger-happy and begin to shoot the ball several times despite a cold spell. These spells could be enough to make Joel Przybilla’s life easier. Przybilla is an excellent rebounder and an okay defender, who will block his share of shots around the rim. However, with the ball he simply cannot score.

Backcourt: Before the Trail Blazers begin to feel thoroughly confident with guard Raymond Felton’s sudden surge, they might want to remind themselves of the 3-for-14 he shot against the Lakers in January. Then again they won that game, so it is a testament to how little a role Felton really plays in the team’s success. He followed that performance by shooting 3-for-4 and a loss a month ago.

Felton is good at pressuring the ball being the solid defender he is, which is good for Portland because as seen, he can be absent from time-to-time. This forces more of the scoring load upon Wesley Matthews. When Felton can pass, Matthews can receive and then shoot. He can also defend too, making the Blazers a difficult team to deal with. Remember this though: he cannot shoot off of a dribble, he is strictly a catch-and-shoot player.

Fun Facts:

  • The Lakers lead the overall series against the Blazers by a margin of 113-88. The Lakers won their last meeting on February 20th, and are 1-1 against Portland this season.
  • Was it poor defense, or the addition of Ramon Sessions? Whatever it was helped Kobe Bryant shoot a season-high 61.1 percent from the field, good enough for 30 points.
  • Portland is allowing an average of 103.8 points in 12 games since the All-Star Break after allowing just 92.5 in 15 games prior to that.

Keys to a Laker Victory:

Smother Matthews
The team has learned that the Portland offense does not revolve around Raymond Felton, who will look to pass before he shoots. One of his primary targets is Matthews, who can catch fire if not watched properly. Portland must not be allowed this option.

Utilize Sessions
It is quite scary what a player can do once they unleash their full potential. The Lakers are seeing this unfold with their new guard, who shot 7-for-8 from the field, and 3-0f-4 from distance, good for 17 points in 29 minutes. Let us find out what else he can do.

Force the Load Upon the Bigs
Yes Aldridge is their leading scorer, and yes he can break out, but what if he is the only one who can do so? Batum is streaky and Przybilla is offensively-inept. This can become a one-man team very quick.

Best-Case Prediction: Lakers 115, Blazers 91
Worst-Case: Blazers 98, Lakers 97

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