Lakers Vs. Trail Blazers Preview: L.A. Looks To Continue Strong Defense Against...

Lakers Vs. Trail Blazers Preview: L.A. Looks To Continue Strong Defense Against Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum

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Larry Nance Jr. Damian Lillard Lakers Trail Blazers
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers surely came to play on Halloween night, as they put together their most complete game for a 113-93 blowout win over the Detroit Pistons. While Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram had successful all-around games, the entire team effort aided Luke Walton’s squad to their third win of the season.

Just like the NBA season, the team moves on to their opponent Thursday night, the Portland Trail Blazers. This young Lakers team will face off against another team hoping to compete for the playoffs, led by franchise player Damian Lillard. The two-time All-Star has had to compete hard each and every season to prove his worth, as he and fellow leader C.J. McCollum have this team off to a 4-4 start.

This season has been rather inconsistent offensively for the Lakers, while their defense seems dramatically improved. Los Angeles is hoping to gain better chemistry as the season progresses, as Ball attempts to lead this offense in the right direction.

With a conference that could potentially be in close proximity all season, both teams have a chance to make a leap with key victories against a fellow fringe opponent early on this season.

Backcourt:

The Trail Blazers can only go as far as Lillard takes them, as he is emerging into one of the premier talents in the NBA. With the quality assets of a true franchise player, the 27-year-old seems to truly want to bring the city of Portland to prominence.

Beside him is his partner in crime, McCollum. The tandem has progressed into one the best backcourts in the NBA, taking turns torching opposing teams from the get go. Both are capable of going off on any given night and the Lakers’ defense will have to be on point from the beginning to try and contain them.

Pat Connaughton is the main guard off the bench and has quickly made a name for himself as a deadly three-point shooter that can space the floor. Evan Turner also acts as a de-facto point guard and is great at creating for himself and others.

On the other hand, Ball enters the contest fresh off of a 14 point, 6 rebound, and three assist performance versus the Pistons. Ball, aware this team needs a faster pace, came out to play on Tuesday and made sure the Lakers got off to the right start.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who contributed heavily in the victory over his former team, is starting to blossom in his role with the young team. His defense has been a consistent presence this season, and he will need to be especially locked in facing off against this backcourt.

Sixth man Jordan Clarkson has been the aggressor in the backcourt this season for the Lakers, showing off his offensive arsenal this season. He leads the Lakers with 14.6 points per game, truly taking over the offense when stepping on the court. Rookie Josh Hart has also stepped up in recent games and he will likely be called upon to try and slow down Lillard and McCollum.

Frontcourt:

Jusuf Nurkic, who was acquired from the Denver Nuggets last season, is the key to the Blazers frontcourt. While he was known for his offensive contributions, Nurkic has been an outright presence on the defensive end as well. He has been the rim protector, while getting phenomenal position around the rim. He will be a handful to contain.

Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu man the forward spots. Harkless is an all-around player that can contribute in many different ways. Aminu is a key player for this team each night thanks to his rebounding and defense. He is often the recipient of easy buckets and tip-ins and will likely draw the task of guarding Brandon Ingram on the other end.

Former Laker Ed Davis is a key player to watch via the Trail Blazers bench, relentlessly crashing the board after every shot. He averages almost nine rebounds in just 19 minutes per game. Noah Vonleh and rookie Caleb Swanigan will also see some minutes up front.

Ingram, who posted 13 points, five rebounds, and six assists in the previous contest, is gaining a better sense for his role as the games have gone on. His key battle is finding the balance for when to score and when to create for his teammates.

Larry Nance Jr. once again contributed a double-double for this team, racking up 14 points, 12 rebounds, and three steals. The true glue to the starting lineup, Nance Jr.’s hustle and athleticism truly make the necessary impact the team needs to get themselves going.

Brook Lopez continues to facilitate from the post, as the veteran still has a respectable skill set with his back to the basket. At the same time, he attempts to get his rhythm down on his three-point shot, which could be a key piece to this offense.

Julius Randle, who at first didn’t except his new role, has slowly improved his overall effort with each game, only adding to the scoring depth of the bench. Rookie Kyle Kuzma has also been a pleasant surprise for Walton, as the Summer League Finals MVP continues to show how NBA ready he was coming out of the 2017 NBA Draft.

Three Keys To Victory:

Continue What Was Working: The blowout win over the Pistons was a prime example of the type of basketball the Lakers need to play. In order to continue the momentum, they need to run and play for one another, creating opportunities and balancing the scoring.

Help The Guards: Ball and Caldwell-Pope will have a tough task ahead of themselves on the defensive end, including many pick-and-rolls to deal with. The bigs have to do a strong job of helping or hedging the picks, while the helpside defender needs to always rotate accordingly when not guarding a shooter.

Contain The Three-Point Line: Portland is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league, while the Lakers have struggled mightily from deep. If the Blazers get hot the Lakers will have a hard time keeping up so they must guard the three-point line at all costs.

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Los Angeles Lakers (3-4) Vs. Portland Trail Blazers (4-4)

7:30 P.M. PST, November 2, 2017
Moda Center, Portland, Oregon
TV: TNT
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Brook Lopez

Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma, Corey Brewer, Josh Hart

Projected Trail Blazers Starting Lineup:

PG: Damian Lillard
SG: C.J. McCollum
SF: Maurice Harkless
PF: Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Jusuf Nurkic

Key Reserves: Evan Turner, Pat Connaughton, Ed Davis