Trail Blazers Projected Starting Line-up:
PG: Andre Miller
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Nicholas Batum
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Dante Cunningham
Key Reserves: Rudy Fernandez
Injuries: Greg Oden, Elliiott Williams, Brandon Roy, Marcus Camby
In the first game after the All-Star break the Lakers came out with guns blazing, which resulted in an easy win over the Hawks. Let’s see if they can maintain that sense of urgency when they visit the injury-riddled Blazers at the Rose Garden.
Frontcourt: LaMarcus Aldridge has stepped up his play recently to the tune of 34 points per game over his last five. His length and athletcism will challenge the Laker bigs. Some of his increased production can be attributed to the fact that the Blazers frontline is depleted. 6’8’’ Cunningham starts at center and splits minutes with the aging Przybilla.
Backcourt: Roy hasn’t played since mid December and is a game time decision for tonight. Roy’s fill-in, Matthews, has played very well on both sides of the floor and topped 20 points in the past three games. Batum and Miller are great role players – Miller for his assists and Batum for his treys and defense.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Fast-break Defense: The Lakers need to get back on defense quicker and defend the break. All too often the Lakers are slow to get back and allow easy baskets in transition. Miller can run the break and Matthews is a finisher so the guards will need to mark them.
Limit Aldridge: Aldridge dropped 40 on the Spurs so he can’t be taken lightly. He’s the only real threat on the Blazers roster, so Gasol needs to make things difficult for him.
Sustained Intensity: The Lakers have one of the most talented rosters in the league. Kobe is playing with a renewed sense of urgency and the team seems to be following suit. The Lakers need to avoid third quarter lapses and play hard for all 48 minutes regardless of the opponent.
Laker Injury Update: Matt Barnes has returned to practice and is expected back on the court soon, Theo Ratliff is out.