Lakers vs. Blazers Pre-Game Report: Pre-Season Continues in Ontario
After seeing Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant share the backcourt for the first time on Sunday night, the Lakers head to Ontario and Citizens Business Bank Arena for their second game of the pre-season. The starters fared well in Sunday’s matchup with the Warriors, with Nash, Kobe, Metta World Peace, and Paul Gasol all having plus/minus measures of at least plus-5. The Lakers and Mike Brown hope to continue to mend together the rest of the new-look roster against the rebuilding Portland Trail Blazers.
The Blazers finished the 2011-2012 season 10 games below .500 (28-38) and are clearly going in a new direction. Gone are former franchise building blocks Brandon Roy (now with the Minnesota Timberwolves) and former number one overall pick Greg Oden (currently a free agent) due to devastating injuries. Both the Lakers and the Blazers will look to integrate new faces in this matchup. Laker backup big Jordan Hill, the lone bright spot off the Lakers bench in the opener, will be out after suffering a back injury.
Frontcourt: Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star player and is one of the best power forwards in the league. With averages upwards of 21 points and eight rebounds per game the last two seasons, Aldridge is the unquestioned leader of the team. He missed the last nine games of this past season, and the Blazers dropped their final eight. He and Gasol figure to have an excellent matchup.
Small forward Nicolas Batum provides another nice building block for the franchise and is fresh off a career year and a rewarding 4-year contract extension. It remains to be seen who will start at the center position, but 2012 eleventh overall pick Meyers Leonard out of Illinois is the future at the position. JJ Hickson, who came on strong at the end of last season, will provide stiff competition for the starting job with Leonard.
Backcourt: Rookie Damian Lillard out of Weber State will immediately take the reins as the starting point guard. After an impressive summer where he was named co-MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League, Lillard is one to watch in Portland. Former undrafted guard Wesley Matthews gets the nod as the starting shooting guard, coming off a season in which he averaged 13.7 points per game. He provides tough defensive effort as well as knock down shooting ability and is the type of role player that contending teams covet.
Keys to Victory:
Stronger Bench Play: Coming off a game in which the Warriors reeled off a 35-0 run in the second half that mostly involved the Laker reserves, it is clear the Lakers must work to find continuity with their bench. The bench was often times a liability for the Lakers last season, and it will be key again with their reloaded roster this year. Expect newly acquired Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks to come out with more focus and look to be more assertive in their second game wearing Laker uniforms.
Quick Start: The youthful Blazers will be playing in their first pre-season game and are likely to have some jitters. With a roster full of all players except one under the age of 30 and a rookie starting point guard, the Blazers have no familiarity with one another. They also bring in a new head coach in Terry Stotts. If Kobe and the starting five can get out to a big enough lead in the opening quarter, it could help ease the pressure on the bench and allow them to play more freely.
Portland Trail Blazers (0-0) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-1)
7:00 PM PST, October 10, 2012
Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, CA TV: TWC Sports Network
Trail Blazers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Damian Lillard SG: Wesley Matthews SF: Nicolas Batum PF: LaMarcus Aldridge C: Meyers Leonard
Key Reserves: G JJ Hickson, F Jared Jeffries, G Nolan Smith