Pre-Game Report: Lakers Return Home to Face Aldridge and the Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers (17-15) at Los Angeles Lakers (18-13)
7:30 PM PST, February 20, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Trail Blazers Projected Starting Line-up

PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Marcus Camby

Key Reserves: SF Nicholas Batum, G Jamal Crawford

In the second night of a back-to-back the Lakers return home to face the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers had a scare when LaMarcus Aldridge went down with an ankle injury, but he was back in the lineup after missing two games. At full strength, the Blazers are a hard-nosed team who have the length to matchup with the Lakers. The big three of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are clicking on all cylinders recently, and when the bench contributes the Lakers become a very tough team to beat. The Lakers look to extend their five game home winning streak.

Frontcourt: Unheralded and under-hyped, LaMarcus Aldridge is quietly having the best year of his career. He’s leading the Blazers with 22.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. Earlier this season Aldridge showed off his post game and torched the Lakers for 28 points. The Lakers will need to focus their defensive efforts on him. At the five veteran Marcus Camby is a great rebounder and defender but he doesn’t really contribute on offense. It might be prudent for the Lakers to sag off of Camby on the defense in order to double Aldridge. Gerald Wallace is the swingman for the Blazers who has an all-around game; he can rebound, score and defend.

Backcourt: With 6.4 assists, Felton is the main ball handler for the Blazers. He’s had a tough time scoring the ball and has only converted 36.6 percent of his attempts. At the two, Matthews and Crawford split time. They are the scoring specialists on the squad combining for 26.6 points per game. Matthews is the superior defender so he will most likely guard Kobe for most of the game. Off the bench, Batum has blossomed into a big time scorer. He has tallied 33 points twice this year; his speed and athleticism make him hard to stop. The lengthy Batum is a also a great defender who loves to block shots from the weak-side.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory:

Kobe as a Distributor The Blazers have three guys who can guard Kobe: Matthews, Batum and Wallace. It’s unlikely that either one will single-handedly be able shut down Bryant, so the Blazers will probably be forced to double him. Kobe is a great passer and should look to distribute the ball more often, rather than force his shot. Too often it seems that when the Lakers fall behind, Kobe tries to bring the Lakers back on his own rather than get his teammates involved. Kobe is an amazing scorer who always draws a crowd. When he dishes the ball instead of trying to hit the impossible shot, he is at his best.

Contributions from someone not named Kobe, Pau or Andrew The Lakers are having a tough time scoring the ball this season, as 93.1 points per game just won’t get it done on most nights. The big three score 66 percent of the team’s total points. Matt Barnes averages 7.3 points per game. Clearly this is cause for concern. Let’s hope that the rest of the Lakers team can get it going tonight, especially after a sub-par performance on Sunday.

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