The Los Angeles Lakers finally return to Crypto.com Arena after their annual Grammy road trip on Wednesday night. However, with a 2-4 showing on the road, they now sit three games below .500 and face a near must-win as they face the shorthanded Portland Trail Blazers.
The Trail Blazers — like the Lakers — have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA this season, as injuries and poor roster construction come back to haunt them. When they face the Lakers on Wednesday night, their roster will be almost unrecognizable from what fans usually see from Portland.
They are without Damian Lillard (core), Cody Zeller (patella), Larry Nance. Jr (bone bruise), and Nassir Little (labrum), all of whom are dealing with long-term injuries that could hold them out for a significant period of time.
CJ Elleby and Trendon Watford are questionable for the Trail Blazers, while recent standout Anfernee Simons and center Jusuf Nurkic are probable.
The Lakers are without Kendrick Nunn and LeBron James, who continues to have swelling in his knee and remains day-to-day moving forward. However, Anthony Davis is good to go, giving the Lakers the star power advantage in this matchup.
For the Lakers to beat the Trail Blazers and get back on the right path, it starts with successfully defending the guard tandem of Simons and C.J. McCollum. Simons has led his team in scoring in eight of 16 games since the calendar flipped to 2022.
L.A. has notoriously struggled this season to defend opposing guards, making this no easy outing despite the Trail Blazers’ lackluster record. Down low, the focus of Davis — and any other Lakers bigs — should be on Nurkic. Nurkic is averaging 12.2 rebounds per game in 2022, another area of weakness for L.A. this season.
If Davis can provide steady rebounding and physicality with Nurkic down low, while players like Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk, and Russell Westbrook do a serviceable job on Simons and McCollum, the Lakers should have the offensive firepower to grab a win.
At this point, after an ugly road trip and season-long battles with consistency, the Lakers cannot take any opponent lightly. In order to get back on track, L.A. desperately needs a win, however that comes about.
Lakers (24-27) vs. Trail Blazers (21-30)
7:30 p.m. PT, Feb. 2, 2022
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Malik Monk
PF: Stanley Johnson
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, Carmelo Anthony, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza
Projected Trail Blazers Starting Lineup:
PG: Anfernee Simons
SG: C.J. McCollum
SF: Norman Powell
PF: Robert Covington
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Key Reserves: Dennis Smith Jr., Ben McLemore, Tony Snell
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