The Los Angeles Lakers will hit the hardwood for the second straight night and face off against the Trailblazers. As preseason draws to a close, Byron Scott will try to solidify his rotation. The Lakers still have two more roster spots to fill and it looks like Ronnie Price has the inside track on one of those spots. My best guess for the final spot is that the Lakers would take a chance on Wayne Ellington to shore up their shooting guard depth. Tonight, the Lakers will meet the Blazers who are a likely playoff team. Let’s jump into the analysis.
Frontcourt: LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the most underrated players in the league. Last season, he quietly put up averages of 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.0 block and nearly 1.0 steal per game. He led the league in mid-range makes and is more offensively skilled than people give him credit for. Somehow he avoids the hype train and people are surprised when they see his numbers. Make no mistake, Aldridge is a force to be reckoned with and it’ll be a good test to see how the Lakers frontcourt handles him.
Robin Lopez anchors the Blazers defense at center. He’s an imposing figure at seven feet tall and will turn away shots in the paint. While he may not be an offensive threat, he still managed to chip in 11.1 points per game last season. Former Laker Chris Kaman will back-up Lopez this year and will provide some offensive firepower in the paint.
Backcourt: Last season, Damian Lillard took another step towards stardom in his sophomore year. He made the All-Star team for the first time and his buzzer beating shot helped propel the Blazers to their first playoff series win since 2000. Lillard is a dynamic point guard who can score from nearly anywhere on the court. He’s also a great passer, so he’ll be tough for the Lakers to defend. Since Lillard garners so much defensive attention, his backcourt mate, Wesley Matthews, reaps the benefits. Matthews had a career year last season with 16.4 points and 2.5 treys per game. He’s a dangerous long range shooter and also a solid defender.
Nicholas Batum starts at small forward and is essentially an oversized shooting guard. Batum is a versatile player who can defend, rebound and score when needed. He is the Blazers best defender and will probably get the assignment of guarding Kobe in the regular season when these two teams meet.
Things To Watch For:
How The Lakers Bigs Defend The Rim: Aldridge will be a huge test for this Lakers frontcourt committee. He will be a great test for the rookie Randle to get his feet wet against an elite power forward. So far, Scott has rotated four guys: Hill, Boozer, Randle and Davis pretty evenly. Despite having reasonable depth, the Lakers lack a true rim defender. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle Lillard and his penetration.
Kobe’s Efficiency: Kobe began the season gingerly, but as he’s worked himself back into game shape, you can start to see the Kobe of old emerge. His shot attempts have started to exceed 21 per game and his efficiency has dipped. Will this be an omen for this upcoming season?
Julius Randle’s Playing Time: I’d like Scott to give Randle more playing time especially during the preseason. Everyone knows what the 12-year veteran Boozer is capable of at this point. But it’s puzzling that Boozer is getting more playing time than Randle during preseason. If anything, their minutes distribution should be reversed. How else will Randle develop if he’s not given time to get assimilated to the NBA? The rookie will mistakes and preseason is the perfect time for him to play through those. I’d like to see Randle play 27+ minutes tonight.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are 3.5-point underdogs against the Trailblazers according to Sportsbook.ag.
Portland Trailblazers (1-2) at Los Angeles Lakers (2-4)
7:00 PM PST, October 22, 2014
Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Trailblazers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Nicholas Batum
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Robin Lopez
Key Reserves: PG: C.J. McCollum C: Chris Kaman SG: Will Barton
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Jordan Hill
Kobe Comments On ESPN Article