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Game 56 Preview: Blazers vs. Lakers

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No rest for the weary.  We turn right around and head to L.A. now.

A Look at the Lakers

What can you say about the world's most famous team that isn't already common knowledge?  They're all about Kobe, all the time.  Fortunately for them Kobe has decided to be about hustling and distributing this year as well as shooting.  His 29 points per game is the eye-popping stat but he also averages 5.5 rebounds and assists.  Lamar Odom is approaching 17 points and gets over 9 rebounds himself.  He really needs to be around 20 ppg to make the Lakers a spectacular team though.  After that the falloff is significant, with most guys having some talent but none proving really consistent.  The biggest name is probably young center Andrew Bynum who has had quite a few double-digit rebounding games this year as well as some good (though less frequent) scoring outings.  If he gets on a roll he is a load to handle.  Luke Walton is a solid complementary player who can shoot, rebound, and pass.  Everybody else is really hit and miss.

The Lakers love to run the ball when they can.  They're not a brilliant defensive team and they bank on scoring more instead of stopping you.  In addition to running they also have considerable prowess from distance.  You have to be on your guard for every second of the shot clock against them because they can shoot it early or late from just about anywhere.  If you pressure them they'll miss but if you leave them open you're toast.  Kobe is brilliant from the foul line and makes quite a living there but the rest are so-so.  They're average rebounders and they tend to turn the ball over when things are going bad for them.  They're not great, they're not bad, but with Kobe on the team they ALWAYS have a chance to win the game.

What I'd Like To See:

When Portland plays the Lakers you can throw out the stats and charts.  There's only one thing that matters:  who comes with more hustle and heart.  Even being in the pit of despair the last few years this is one team we've played well and we've done it because we came to play against them and threw ourselves into it.  When we've lost we've lost big because we didn't bring it hard.  If we bring a massive amount of desire we have a chance.  If not they'll handle us easily.

The Utah game didn't necessarily mean much in terms of how things are going to go the rest of the season, but winning this one would sure put a rosy outlook on things.  For some reason I doubt it will happen, as it seems whenever we get a little prosperity we follow it up by falling on our collective faces.  Here's hoping though!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)