Wednesday’s matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers provides the Los Angeles Lakers with a great opportunity to bounce back from the unfortunate loss to the Indiana Pacers.
The Trail Blazers face the Lakers at Crypto.com Arena coming off a rough loss of their own to the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night. They are without Damian Lillard and Gary Payton II, who are out with calf and core injuries, respectively. Josh Hart was also ruled out after injuring his ankle on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Patrick Beverley is returning from the three-game suspension he received for pushing Deandre Ayton in last week’s loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Troy Brown Jr. could be the only Laker to miss the game as the wing is grappling with foot soreness and was downgraded to questionable on Wednesday morning.
Without Lillard, the Blazers have slipped in the Western Conference standings after a surprisingly strong start to the 2022-23 season. They have lost six of the last seven games and are entering the clash in seventh with an 11-10 record.
Still, the Lakers need to be locked in during the game as Portland remains a well-rounded team with significant firepower. They should test the Lakers’ perimeter defense on Wednesday having shot for 3 at the third-highest rate (38.2%) in the NBA this season.
The Blazers have six players who knock down over 37% of their 3-point attempts — including breakout star Anfernee Simons and marquee offseason signing Jerami Grant. Simons is averaging 23.9 points, 4.3 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game while Grant is putting up 22.0 points, 2.6 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 1.0 blocks, making triples at a top-10 rate (47.9%) this season.
Notably, big man Jusuf Nurkic is shooting a career-high 43.3% from deep, further aiding Portland’s spacing. The effort to limit the Blazers’ 3-point threat should start with Anthony Davis containing Nurkic, setting the tone on the defensive end.
The Blazers are vulnerable to turnovers and allow their opponents to rack up plenty of blocks and steals. Taking advantage of those weaknesses would certainly disrupt Portland’s offense.
On the offensive end, L.A. hopes to keep up the efficiency from recent games. LeBron James has been hitting 42.9% of his triples over his last four outings, averaging 27.8 points, 4.0 assists, and 8.5 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook is coming off a 24-point performance in the loss to the Pacers, shooting at a 55.6% rate and making two of his four 3-point attempts (50%).
A similarly productive performance from the Lakers’ leaders will certainly push them closer to collecting another win. But, as the matchup with Indiana showed, the Purple and Gold need to play with way more poise once they manage to take a sizable lead.
With their record still below the .500 line at 7-12, L.A. can’t afford to squander another high double-digit advantage in the fourth quarter again.
Los Angeles Lakers (7-12) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (11-10)
7:30 p.m. PT, November 30, 2022
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, CA
TV: NBA TV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Lonnie Walker IV
SF: Austin Reaves
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, Kendrick Nunn, Max Christie, Thomas Bryant, Wenyen Gabriel
Projected Trail Blazers Starting Lineup:
PG: Anfernee Simons
SG: Trenton Watford
SF: Justise Winslow
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Key Reserves: Drew Eubanks, Keon Johnson, Jabari Walker, Greg Brown III
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