The Los Angeles Lakers playoff drought has to an end as they take on the Portland Trail Blazers in the franchise’s first postseason game since 2013.
Despite being the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed through all kinds of obstacles, they won’t hold the usual advantages that come with winning the regular season crown.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all playoff games will take place in the Walt Disney World bubble, removing the home court advantage the Lakers would have had throughout the first three rounds. And because of a stacked Western Conference, L.A. will not even get the easy first round matchup the top seeds are accustomed to.
The Lakers must face the Trail Blazers, who may be one of the most talented eighth seeds in NBA history. Led by Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers had the most efficient offense during the eight seeding games and the third best offense for the entire regular season.
Meanwhile, L.A. has struggled mightily to find offensive rhythm in Orlando. Despite having the fourth best offensive rating in the NBA prior to the bubble, a third worst offense in the bubble crashed them all the way to 11th on the season. Getting their shots to fall again will be critical in getting out of the first round untouched.
Luckily, the Trail Blazers have not been known for their defense. Although a Lillard-CJ McCollum-Carmelo Anthony trio leads to great things offensively, there’s no doubting the deficiencies it creates on the other end of the court.
The Trail Blazers had the third worst defensive rating in the bubble and fourth worst for the entire season.
During the regular season, these two teams faced off three times, with the Lakers getting the win in two of the meetings. In the three games, the Lakers averaged a whopping 127.7 points per game. Their only loss came in L.A.’s first game back after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, when emotions were at their height.
Perhaps playing a team as defensively porous as the Trail Blazers will give the Lakers the rhythm they’ve been craving back. They’ll need to given how many points Portland likely plans on scoring in this series. Despite the Lakers having one of the league’s best defenses, it seems no one can stop Portland right now.
On the injury front, it seems the Lakers will be fully healthy with the exception of Rajon Rondo, who has been medically cleared to play but will likely be held out. For the Trail Blazers, Zach Collins will be out and is replaced by Wenyen Gabriel in the starting lineup.
LeBron James and company will also have some added motivation, as the Trail Blazers have become a bit of a favorite and fairly common pick among analysts to upset L.A.
Lakers (52-19) vs. Trail Blazers (35-39)
6:00 p.m. PT, Aug. 18, 2020
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, Florida
TV: TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: ESPN L.A. 710
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Danny Green
PF: Anthony Davis
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Dwight Howard, Dion Waiters, Markieff Morris
Projected Trail Blazers Starting Lineup:
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: CJ McCollum
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Wenyen Gabriel
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Key Reserves: Gary Trent Jr., Hassan Whiteside, Mario Hezonja
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