The Los Angeles Lakers and their brand new roster start their quest to the playoffs in the 2018-19 NBA regular season opener against the Portland Trail Blazers on the road.
The last time these two teams met, things were extremely different. In March, the Trail Blazers defeated the Lakers 108-103 with Julius Randle as the leading scorer and rebounder, while Isaiah Thomas led the way in assists. Now, the Lakers will be testing an almost entirely new roster.
The obvious storyline for this game is the newest Laker, LeBron James, and pretty much everything surrounding him. How will he gel with Brandon Ingram and the rest of the young Lakers? How many minutes will he play? How will he mesh with the squad of veterans, a group James refers to as “M.U.D.”?
Those four veterans, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley, figure to play a large role for this team. Two of them, Rondo and McGee, will be in the starting lineup for tomorrow’s game. This will also be the first time in the infancy of this new team that every major rotation player will be healthy. This means Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Ingram, who all missed preseason action at some point with some form of injury, will all be playing.
The Lakers will be facing a Blazers squad that, similarly, do not rely on many traditional big men, opting for small-ball lineups in most situations. This will be a great opportunity for head coach Luke Walton to experiment with some smaller lineups, which means the continued progress of Kyle Kuzma at the center position.
The major matchup to watch will shockingly not include James. This is because the Blazers don’t have an All-Star level player at James’ position. Instead, all eyes will be on Damian Lillard and his matchups with Rondo and Ball. Lillard terrorized the Lakers last year in his two meetings with them, averaging 35.5 points. McGee will also be tasked with guarding Jusuf Nurkic, who is a commonly underrated big man and is no easy task for any center in this league.
The Lakers will hope to come out of the gates hot and beat a Trail Blazers squad that they are perpetually competitive against, even before they had James. This game should be a fun one.
Los Angeles Lakers (0-0) Vs Portland Trail Blazers (0-0)
7:30 P.M. PST, Oct. 18, 2018
Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: LeBron James
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley
Projected Blazers Starting Lineup:
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: C.J. McCollum
SF: Maurice Harkless
PF: Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Key Reserves: Evan Turner, Seth Curry, Nik Stauskas, Meyers Leonard, Zach Collins
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