Potential 2011 Playoff Preview: Lakers vs. Trail Blazers

Point Guard

Veterans. 11 years and 14 years in the league, respectively, Andre Miller and Derek Fisher seem to have nothing in common other than their position and 10-plus years in the NBA.  Minus Fisher’s five NBA Championship rings, the matchup presents itself as an intriguing one.

Miller, a facilitator in the Blazers’ offense, is averaging 7.2 APG and a shade under 13 PPG.  Fisher, a pawn in the Lakers triangle offense, is averaging just 6.6 PPG while playing 27 minutes per game.

If Miller can work the pick-and-roll and get the ball out to his shooters–Batum, Matthews, Fernandez and Roy–look for the Blazers to have the edge at the one-guard.

Shooting Guard

Kobe vs. Roy was a rivalry I was looking forward to three years ago.  Now Matthews, coming off of a solid year will be Kobe’s main foe on the Blazers’ squad.

In three games this year, Matthews has averaged just 8.7 PPG against the Lakers, shooting an abysmal 20 percent from behind the arc.  The main challenge for Matthews will be keeping Kobe from scorching the nets on the offensive end.

Do I even need to tell you whom the advantage goes to?

KB24.

Small Forward

Batum, the 6’8,” 22-year old rising star for the Blazers, presents a matchup problem for the Lakers and many teams throughout the NBA.   Averaging 21.3 PPG against the Lakers, his highest total against any team in the association this season, Phil Jackson and company should be weary of the game changing potential Batum has.

In the March 20th loss to the Lakers, Batum had 25 points, scoring 22 in the first three quarters.  With Ron Artest likely guarding Gerald Wallace at the power-forward position, it will be interesting to see how coach Jackson matches Lamar Odom or plausibly, bench player Matt Barnes against the French star.

Advantage: Portland.

It will be no easy task slowing down Batum, and if the Blazers go small with Wallace at the four and Batum at the three, look for this lineup to give the Lakers fits throughout a potential first round matchup.

Frontline

The Blazers are 28th in the league in rebounds per game. Center/power forward, Marcus Camby is day-to-day with an ankle injury.  Thus, newly acquired Gerald Wallace plays a power-forward/small-forward hybrid averaging 15.2 PPG and picking up 8.1 RPG this season.

Ultimately, this potential matchup will be won or lost on the boards.  Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum average 10.2 rebounds and nine rebounds, respectively, as the Lakers are third in the NBA in rebounds per game averaging a shade fewer than 44.

It’s not the Lakers who have questions and doubts in the frontline.  LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers leading scorer will get his points. But how well can Wallace box-out and rebound? How will Camby play after returning from injury? How will the Blazers guard a confident Bynum, a consistent Gasol, and Sixth-Man of the Year Odom?

These are the questions Blazers’ coach Nate McMillian will have to answer.

Advantage: Lakers

Bench

A volatile area for the Lakers throughout the season–either outstanding or downright miserable–the team will need some sort of consistency throughout the playoffs especially in the later rounds.

With Odom leading the charge for the Lakers, it seems easy enough to give the upper hand to the defending champions.

However, a Trail Blazer team who could possibly bring Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews, or Rudy Fernandez off the bench is a bit terrifying. A run here, a run there, and the Lakers could see themselves in the midst of a heated battle just to make it out of the first round.

Choosing which team has the advantage is a toss up. One remarkable performance from Shannon Brown or Brandon Roy could sway the scale to either side.

Next: Reserves and the Rose Garden

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