The Lakers are in Portland tonight for a match-up with the heavily injured Trail Blazers. While this may seem like an easy win for Los Angeles it is anything but. The Lakers have failed to win in Portland’s Rose Garden since the 2005 season, losing their last eight games in the City of Roses. This year looks different, however, because the Blazers’ injury bug has turned into an epidemic. They are missing both Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla, their first and second string centers, plus a slew of other players that were key in their resurgence last season. The Lakers are once again without Pau Gasol and Luke Walton, but the news on both is encouraging. So for the Lakers to stop their eight game skid in Portland, here are the things they must do:
- Improved Offensive Flow – Against the Clippers the offense was stagnant and revolved around Kobe Bryant too heavily. They must be able to move the ball and rely on their other scorers besides Bryant to avoid becoming one-dimensional. Portland is worn down with injuries, so solid ball movement and a good all-around performance will be very helpful in wearing down the Blazers.
- Bench Mob – Always a crucial element, but tonight even more so. Because the Blazers are so beaten up the bench has an excellent chance to come in, push the tempo, and wear down the Portland reserves. However, if they play poorly and don’t force Portland to play hard, physical basketball they will be sorry in the end.
- The Roses Thorns – The Rose Garden is one of the toughest arenas for opposing teams in the entire league, and the Lakers know that full well. They must get off to an early start to quiet the crowd or else they are going to be facing six men for the entire game. If Los Angeles can establish some dominance early on the crowd will become restless and quiet, but if Portland jets out of the gates and the Lakers don’t respond the crowd will be a major factor.
Los Angeles Lakers @ Portland Trail Blazers
The Rose Garden, Portland, OR
TV: KCAL 9
Radio: 710 ESPN