The Los Angeles Lakers game Sunday night against the Portland Trail Blazers was different than most of their games this season, as for a while the Lakers actually played well on the defensive end of the floor.
It was their offense that struggled though, and that resulted in a 97-81 loss at home. The game was the first this season that the Lakers played without rookie forward Brandon Ingram, as he sat out with patellar tendonitis.
Los Angeles returns to the court Tuesday night when they host the Washington Wizards, and for the second straight game they will be without Ingram as he continues to recover from the knee injury.
Veteran Corey Brewer is once again said to get the start in Ingram’s absence against a Wizards team that currently has the third best record in the Eastern Conference.
Washington features one of the best backcourts in all of basketball in four-time All-Star John Wall and All-Star snub Bradley Beal.
Wall is in the midst of the best season of his career, averaging career-highs in points (23.0), assists (10.8), steals (2.0) and field goal percentage (44.8 percent). The 26-year-old has established himself as a legit superstar on both ends of the floor. He is one of the fastest point guards in the league, which should provide plenty of problems for the Lakers defensively.
Just like Wall, Beal is also having a career year as the 23-year-old is also averaging career-highs in points, assists and field goal percentage at 23.1 points, 3.5 assists and 48.1 percent shooting.
The Lakers young backcourt of Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell should pose some challenges to Wall and Beal of the offensive end of the floor though, as both Clarkson and Russell have scored career-highs in recent weeks.
Clarkson’s came in an overtime win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, as he scored 35 points while knocking down eight threes, and Russell’s came in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers when he went off for 40.
The Wizards front court may not be their biggest strength, but it does feature one of the best three-point shooters in the league in Otto Porter (44.2 percent), and a center who works the pick-and-roll to perfection with Wall in Marcin Gortat.
Gortat has been solid in his 10-year NBA career, and this season is rebounding at a career rate, averaging 10.8 per game to go along with 11.0 points. While Gortat is not the team’s top option as far as scoring goes, a body needs to be stuck on him in the paint or else Wall will find him for easy dunks.
The Lakers young front court features Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac. The rookie center, Zubac, was recently inserted into the starting lineup for the Lakers and in the last eight games has averaged 12.4 points and 6.3 rebounds. He is an extremely talented scorer, but at 20-years-old he obviously can use some work at the defensive end of floor.
Randle’s biggest problem is his consistency. The 22-year-old turned in an extremely solid performance against Minnesota, scoring 23 points to go along with 12 rebounds. But he followed that up with just four points and nine rebounds against Portland. So with him it’s not a matter of if the talent is there or not, but rather about consistency.
Three Keys To Victory:
Contain Wall: Wall is one of the most prolific offensive players in the league, and has the ability not only to create shots for himself, but also for his teammates. He is too fast for any one Laker to guard one-on-one, so the Lakers are going to have to commit to stopping Wall as a team.
Limit Turnovers: There is a direct correlation this season between how many turnovers the Lakers have and if they win or lose. It is hard for a young team to win when they don’t take care of the ball.
Crash The Glass: On Sunday the Lakers were outrebounded by Portland 67-49 and 12-1 on the offensive glass. If you give a good team like Portland or Washington second chance opportunities they will take advantage of them.
Washington Wizards (45-28) Vs. Los Angeles Lakers (21-52)
7:30 P.M. PST, March 28, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Wizards Starting Lineup:
PG: John Wall
SG: Bradley Beal
SF: Otto Porter Jr.
PF: Markieff Morris
C: Marcin Gortat
Key Reserves: Kelly Oubre Jr., Jason Smith, Brandon Jennings, Ian Mahinmi
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: D’Angelo Russell
SF: Corey Brewer
PF: Julius Randle
C: Ivica Zubac
Key Reserves: Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black, David Nwaba, Tyler Ennis