After an impressive three-game road trip, the Los Angeles Lakers return home to face one of the hottest teams in the league, the Portland Trail Blazers. During the off-season, the Blazers were one of the most active teams in free agency and brought in numerous veterans to address their weak bench. As a result, Portland has gotten off to one of their best starts in franchise history thanks to the dynamic duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. With Kobe Bryant not making his return against the Blazers, the Lakers will need to continue playing with good energy on both ends if they want to be two games over the .500 mark. Here’s the analysis of Sunday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers:
Frontcourt: LaMarcus Aldridge is playing at an All-Star level once again this season, averaging 22.1 points and 9.6 rebounds. While there were rumors in the off-season that he wanted to be traded, Aldridge has gotten help from his frontcourt mates, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez. While Batum has continued to put up strong numbers, the acquisition of Robin Lopez has enabled Aldridge to play less minutes at center. Lopez has averaged 8.3 points and 8.1 rebounds while providing a solid defensive presence in the paint. With Chris Kaman out of the rotation, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill will need to do a better job of defending the paint and limiting the Blazers to one possession.
Backcourt: Coming off Rookie of the Year honors, Damian Lillard has continued to play well in his sophomore season by averaging 19.9 points and 5.7 assists while shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. After struggling the past two seasons with injuries, Wesley Matthews has emerged as a top five three-point shooter in the league to go along with his solid defensive abilities. With a strong backcourt, the Laker guards will need to do their best to keep them out of the paint.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Defend the Three: The Trail Blazers are in the top 10 in three point attempts this season, but have the third best percentage (41.5%) behind the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat. It’ll be important for the Lakers to run them off the three point line and have the Blazers take long, contested twos.
One Possession Only: Against the Pistons, the Lakers gave up 22 offensive rebounds and 76 points in the paint. The Trail Blazers are well aware of those two statistics and will try to punish Los Angeles in the paint without no real shot blockers besides Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson. As a result, not only do the big men for the Lakers need to play with more energy, but the guards need to help out instead of waiting for the outlet pass.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are favored by 3.5 points according to Sportsbook.
Portland Trail Blazers (13-3) at Los Angeles Lakers (9-8)
6:30 PM PST, December 1, 2013
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English)/ 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Trail Blazers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Wesley Matthews
SF: Nicolas Batum
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Robin Lopez
Key Reserves: G: Mo Williams, F: Thomas Robinson, F: Dorell Wright