Game Time: 7:00 p.m. Pacific TV: Comcast
So, do you really need a L*kers preview? Seriously? If you're a casual fan these guys are all over the TV and the news so you probably know more about them than any other team. If you're a diehard Blazers fan you probably hate the L*kers with every fiber of your being and thus know more about them than any other team. But for the .01% of you that fall through the cracks here's what you need to know:
There are zero reasons to believe the Blazers should win this game.
Give me a full Portland lineup? Let's go. Let's get it on for all 82 games. Let the rest of the league fight it out for playoff position while us and L.A. pummel each other into senselessness. If we both ended up 41-41 and bloody it'd be a satisfying season.
But this here, right now? This could get ugly. Portland is going to have to jimmy a way out of all kinds of bad matchups. Kobe Bryant is always a killer but Portland seems to play him as well as anybody, at least within the confines of the Rose Garden. He's been in foul trouble plenty of games. He's been somewhat passive in some, overactive in others. He has trouble finding the rhythm here (unless it's the playoffs, of course) and whatever he manages to do Brandon Roy can usually come close to matching, creating a stalemate at the most important position on the court for these two teams. Even so Roy has seemed fatigued or hurt lately. Maybe the short rest before this game will help.
But Bryant isn't always the worst of it for Portland. Right now Andrew Bynum could be serious trouble. Even though Bynum has been inconsistent the Blazers have zero centers to speak of. Keeping him off the glass is going to be a problem. Keeping him from just putting close shots over people is going to be a problem. Heck, he can even run a little bit and establish position early. Moving him out of it is going to be a problem.
Fortunately the L*kers are still short chronically-injured Pau Gasol, but they still have Lamar Odom, a player who creates a duet of miseries for the Blazers. First he's been rebounding like a madman lately, averaging around 16.7 boards in the last three games. Second he's tough and nasty and mean to Portland and always has been. He'll likely be matched up against LaMarcus Aldridge who is a key cog in the Portland attack and who doesn't respond well to tough and nasty and mean.
And speaking of tough and nasty and mean, say hello to Ron Artest, who plagued the Blazers during last year's playoffs against the Rockets and now returns as a member of their arch-nemesis. Anyone want to bet Artest will be covering Brandon Roy for a substantial portion of this game? And who's going to guard Artest? Webster? He maybe can do it but it's a tall order for him to get that physical.
As usual the rest of the squad is filled with competent players, most of whom can hit a three and few of whom are prone to mistakes. They're not going to win games for L.A. but that's not their assignment. Their job is not to lose them and they don't. You're not going to make headway pressuring the likes of Luke Walton or Derek Fisher.
The L*kers shoot well, hit the three well, draw more foul shots than their opponents, rebound well, defend fantastically, score a bunch in the paint, and take care of the ball. They don't take risks because they don't have to. They can beat you just like they are. And best of all, they lost Wednesday night in surprising fashion to the Clippers so they'll be primed for tonight. Aside from Gasol being back I don't think there's anything more that could possibly be stacked against the Blazers tonight.
So what does Portland do? What Portland always does against L.A. at home. Blitz. Play with emotion. Get the crowd into it. Ignore the L.A. hype. Bring the game down to the Blazers' level. Run, scrap, hit shots, make sure they don't have an easy night in any way. The Blazers have won a ton of games against this team in Portland that they had no business winning. If you're the Blazers you should ask why tonight should be any different.
The keys here are simple: great games from every player, including and especially Miller and Aldridge, who might be able to create some kind of advantage at their positions. You have to have heroic efforts from guys like Pendergraph, Cunningham, Bayless, and Webster too. The job of everyone else is to put Brandon Roy in position to win this game in the fourth quarter with his mojo. Control the boards on the other end so the L.A. offense gets one shot to be as good as it can be and no better. And whatever else is ailing this team chemistry or injury-wise they better put it aside right now or they're going to get their butts handed to them in a sling with a side of Ron-Ron and an Odom shake.
That's it...no other solution or strategy. Play it to the wall and see what happens. You never know with these two teams. Sometimes zero reasons are enough.
Check out the opposing take on this game at SilverScreenandRoll.
Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here. Remember it's a special form where every question outside of the score is the same. If you're confident the Blazers will win or lose, answer all four questions the same and risk the whole 40 points they can get you one way or the other. If you want to hedge your bet and take a sure 20 by answering two questions each way, feel free...or anything in between. If enough people wager all 40 points on the Blazers winning maybe the basketball gods will admire the chutzpah and tilt things our way. You never know...