Lakers Vs. Blazers Preview: Damian Lillard Returns From Injury To Face L.A.
Lakers Nation Podcast: Recapping Lakers Vs. Blazers; Is Nick Young Really Back?
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)


The Los Angeles Lakers got back in the win column Tuesday night when they defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 116-102 at Staples Center.

Julius Randle led the way for Los Angeles, earning his second triple-double of the season scoring 19 points to go along with 14 rebounds and 11 assists. The triple-double was the first against the Grizzlies in 192 games.

The Lakers look to continue to build on that momentum Thursday night when they travel to take on the Portland Trail Blazers.

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Portland is playing in the second end of a back-to-back as they were defeated by the Golden State Warriors 125-117 Wednesday night in Oakland. They will be boosted by the return of their All-Star point guard Damian Lillary though, as he returns after missing the last five games with an ankle injury.

Backcourt:

The Lakers backcourt will have their hands full defensively as Lillard and shooting guard C.J. McCollum average 50.2 points per game between them, making them the highest scoring backcourt in the league.

Both are having the best seasons of their young careers, as Lillard is averaging a career-high 27.0 points per game to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists. He is also shooting a career-high 45.4 percent from the field.

McCollum is also averaging career-highs in points and field goal percentage at 23.2 points and 47.6 percent in addition to shooting 42.7 percent from three-point range.

Los Angeles has an excellent three-point shooter in its own right in Nick Young, who ranks fifth in the NBA at 44.9 percent from deep. He has been on a tear in recent weeks, shooting 56 percent from three in the last nine games.

His backcourt mate, D’Angelo Russell, has also played well recently, draining six threes in each of the last two games. In Tuesday’s win over the Grizzlies he had 18 points, six assists and four rebounds.

The Lakers backcourt off the bench has an edge over Portland’s, as Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson combine to average 32.2 points per game, while Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner combine to average only 19.4.

Frontcourt:

Randle has been on a tear for the Lakers in the last five games, playing some of the best basketball of his career averaging 18 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists.

Portland’s front line will have trouble guarding Randle, as their starting forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless are both undersized.

Harkless is having the best offensive season of his five-year career though, averaging career-highs in points (12.0) and field goal percentage (49.4 percent).

Portland also has a scoring threat off the bench in Meyers Leonard, who is known for his ability to stretch the floor and knock down outside shots consistently. In five seasons Leonard is a career 37.3 percent shooter from three-point range. That average is down a bit this season as he is shooting just 33.3 percent from deep.

The Lakers have struggled to find success offensively out of their small forward position this season as both Luol Deng and Brandon Ingram have not yet found their shot. Deng is shooting 38.7 percent from the field on the season, while Ingram is shooting 34.7 percent.

Three Keys To Victory:

Contain Damian Lillard:

The Lakers have struggled against ball dominant point guards this season, and Lillard is one of the best in the league. Not only does he have the ability to create his own shot, but he also can create for his teammates and Portland has a lot of knock down shooters.

Close Out The Game:

There have been many instances for the Lakers in recent weeks, particularly on the road, in which they have blown leads late in games. Whether its playing with more heart or effort, or continuing to run the offensive and not resorting to one-on-one late in games, the Lakers need to find a way to close out some of these games and Thursday night they may have an opportunity to do that.

Crash The Boards:

Portland is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, ranking 26th at 41.9 rebounds per game. They have a -3.0 rebound differential which ranks 25th, so the glass is an area that the Lakers can exploit Portland.

Los Angeles Lakers (13-25) Vs. Portland Trail Blazers (15-22)

7:30 P.M. PST, January 5th, 2017
Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
TV: TNT
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)

Projected Trail Blazers Starting Lineup:

PG: Damian Lillard
SG: C.J. McCollum
SF: Maurice Harkless
PF: Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Mason Plumlee

Key Reserves: Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, Shabazz Napier

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov

Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Lou Williams, Thomas Robinson, Tarik Black

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