And here we go.
The Portland Trail Blazers face off against the Los Angeles Lakers tonight in a 7:00 p.m. contest televised locally on KGW TV. The storyline from Portland's point of view is simple: We're not going to make the playoffs. It would be kind of sweet if you didn't either. Say...remember that game back on February 22nd? You know, the game where we played really, really well, smacked you on the chops, put you on the ropes, and then the entire reffing crew went into spaz mode and made a half-dozen bad calls in the closing minutes of the fourth to give you a 111-107 win? The calls were so bad that they've since become centerpieces in certain popular NBA conspiracy videos. You remember that, right?
Well, like we said, we ain't making the playoffs this year. It would be kind of sweet if you didn't either.
For a team fighting to hold onto the 8th and final playoff seed in the conference, the Lakers are playing pedestrian basketball. Oops! I forgot. "Pedestrian" is an insensitive term, as L.A.'s starting lineup is so old they the Rascal Scooters just to get up and down the court. Boy Scouts earn merit badges escorting them to and from timeout huddles. Contents of sideline cups: 8 oz. Gatorade, 2 teaspoons of Metamucil.
Putting some extra urgency in their game for the last couple weeks has earned the Lakers an impressive 5-5 record. They've lost to Phoenix, Washington, Golden State, and Milwaukee in their last 10, plus the Clippers disposed of them like a used napkin.
What's that, Mr. Bryant? Oh, I know. You can get more use out of that napkin. OK, I'll save it. Yes, the Great Depression could come again. I'll take your leftover meatloaf to the fridge for you too. Yeah, the portions are too big nowadays. Now please let me get back to my preview. No, not emu...PREVIEW. My God, what's that whistling noise coming out of your ear? No, no! It's not time for you to shoot free throws again. Just turn down the little knob and you'll be fine. Go play checkers with Mr. World Peace and I'll get back to you in a few minutes.
Kobe and the Geriatrics have surprised nobody this year, at least not to the good. They're the worst running team in the league, scoring a miserly 10 points per game on the break and allowing a princely 16, good for 29th in the league. They don't defend the paint that well. They're about average defending the arc. They never force turnovers. The only distinctive (positive) feature of their defense: they're second in the league in foul shots allowed. They trail only the Spurs in personal fouls committed per possession. That's what they're best at. Not getting whistles blown against them.
On offense they're average in points in the paint scored, average at three-point percentage, slightly above average at overall shooting percentage, average at offensive rebounds, commit an average amount of turnovers, dish a slightly below average number of assists...you get the picture. The distinctive (positive) feature of their offense: they're first in the league in foul shots taken and second in fouls drawn per possession. That's what they're best at. Getting whistles blown for them.
The Lakers score 19 points a game on average at the foul line. Their opponents average 14.1 per game. That's a +4.9 margin. Their point differential for the year is +1.0.
An enormous number of Laker shots come from beyond the arc nowadays. They're third in the league at threes attempted with 24.5 long shots per game. That comprises 30% of their field goal attempts. Only Houston and New York have higher ratios.
Lakers Offense in a Nutshell: Walk it up, try to exploit a Kobe or Dwight Howard matchup, scare up extra points at the arc or the charity stripe, hope Howard or Pau Gasol can rebound any misses.
Like the Blazers, the Lakers are playing wounded. Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace have returned from injuries but Steve Nash is out. They played the Hornets at home last night, eking out a win with a rotation of 8.
Unfortunately the Blazers are in even worse shape. There's a possibility the Blazers will have to start LaMarcus Aldridge and four rookies. We know Wesley Matthews is out. J.J. Hickson has a bad back and is questionable. Nicolas Batum is still working on a shoulder problem and is doubtful.
Wednesday Shootaround Update: Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports on Twitter that Matthews (ankle) and Batum (shoulder) are officially listed out. Aldridge (illness) is listed as "probable" while Hickson (back) is a game-time decision.
Wednesday Pre-Game Update: Blazers coach Terry Stotts says Matthews, Batum and Hickson are out while Aldridge will play.
But hey, this is still Blazers-Lakers and it's still the Rose Garden. The Lakers are vulnerable. They Blazers have the ability to win this. They have to capitalize on L.A.'s slow tendencies and the fact that they played last night with a short rotation. The Blazers need to run, run, and run. They'll probably have to get hot from the arc as well. Then they have to hope that the fatigued Lakers settle for their own three-pointers and grab those long rebounds.
Rebounding may be the biggest key of the night. The Blazers can absorb Kobe point and they can even take a few blows from Howard. But if they let Dwight or Pau control the offensive glass running will go out the window and L.A.'s field goal percentage will hover near 50. That combination will kill the Blazers. I don't know who's going to keep Dwight off the glass. I don't know how they're going to do it. Maybe they have to hope that Dwight beats Dwight with a less-than-stellar effort. Or maybe they'll try to get some whistles against him. Who knows? All we know is that we've seen Rose Garden voodoo overcome the Lakers before.
One more time would be nice. The Blazers need to run the Lakers up and down the court, leave them panting and shaking their heads, begging for their post-game
whirlpool sponge bath. A victory tonight would be oh so sweet. Let's see if the Blazers can pull it off.
Yes, Mr. Bryant. I know Paul Harvey comes on in two minutes. I'll turn on the radio for you. Just a sec. Yes, and then Murder, She Wrote too. Just like every day. I suppose Angela Lansbury is kind of a cutie. I never thought of her like that. Please wipe your chin, Mr. World Peace. The Jell-o is dribbling out. Hold on, there. I got it. (sigh)
SilverScreenandRoll will talk about the Lakers if you like to read that kind of stuff.
Yes, Mr. Bryant, movies were better in black and white. What? And before all the talking too? I wouldn't know, sir.
Your Jersey Contest Form for this game.
No... JERSEY, not Guernsey. We're not giving away a cow, Mr. Bryant. Yes, it is too bad. I'm sure they are good eating. Now come on, let's get you outside so you can feed squirrels with Mr. Nash.