The Lakers finally broke their three game losing streak when they successfully defeated the Sacramento Kings this past Friday night at Staples Center. It’s been pretty tough to say the least, and with guys on the roster unhealthy for extended periods of time, it was great to see the roster come together to get a much-needed victory for team morale and the fans.
Tonight, the Lakers are looking to continue on the winning track, as the face the Portland Trail Blazers on the road. These two teams come in heading toward totally different paths. The Lakers are considered to be in the heart of the “tank” sweepstakes, as they hold the worst record in the Western Conference. As for the Trail Blazers, they are trying to cement themselves as one of the legitimate contenders in the wild west.
One bright spot for the Lakers has been the play of new additions Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. More than anything, the combination of these two guards has given this team a much needed boost in effort, and that’s been a pleasant sight for fans amid this tough and grueling season. We should expect them both to continue playing with passion and energy tonight.
Frontcourt: LaMarcus Aldridge is having an excellent season, averaging 23.8 points and 11.3 rebounds. Aldridge has noticeably taken his game to another level, and is a nightmare matchup for a Lakers team that doesn’t have a defensive identity.
Aldridge gets a lot help from his frontcourt mates, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez. While Batum doesn’t necessarily surprise you with stellar numbers, his ability to create for others, defend, and convert from behind the arc make him a viable threat that must be accounted for. Robin Lopez has enabled Aldridge to slide into his natural position at power forward.
Chris Kaman, Pau Gasol, and Jordan Hill will need to do a decent job defending Aldridge if the Lakers want a shot. It’ll be interesting to see if Mike D’Antoni goes with his routine small lineup and starts Wes Johnson at power forward. If so, it might be a long night.
Backcourt: Damian Lillard has had a stellar sophomore season, averaging 21.6 points and 5.6 assists while shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc. Wesley Matthews continues to be a consistent third option in this high-scoring team, and has used his defensive capabilities to keep this team atop the Western Conference elite. With a strong backcourt, the Laker guards will need to do their best on the defensive end to limit the Blazers’ scoring opportunities.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Defend the Three: The Trail Blazers by far are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA. With Lillard as the engine driving this offense, the Lakers must do their due diligence to cover that three-point line. Portland is one of the best teams at driving and kicking out to open shooters. They also move the ball quickly. It’ll be key for the Lakers to run shooters off the three point line and have the Trail Blazers take long, contested twos.
Defensive Rebounding: Games like this tend to be a nightmare for the Lakers frontcourt, as the Trail Blazers start two legitimate seven-footers at the power forward and center positions. The Trail Blazers will almost certainly punish Los Angeles in the paint with only one active rebounder in the first unit. Mike D’Antoni will have to play a true power forward alongside Pau at times, as that will help this team match up defensively and protect the defensive glass.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are 12-point underdogs via Sportsbook.
Portland Trail Blazers (41-18) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (20-39)
7:00 PM PST, March 3, 2014
Rose Garden, Portland, OR
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Trail Blazers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Nicolas Batum
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Robin Lopez
Key Reserves: G: Mo Williams, F: Thomas Robinson, F: Dorell Wright
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: Wesley Johnson
C: Pau Gasol
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