Well, here we go folks. If you've been a Blazer fan for very long a healthy resentment of the L*kers is pretty much branded into your soul. For myself the Magic game-ending, underhanded toss from the Western Conference Finals is a horrible memory I'll never forget. For more recent converts the 2000 WCF Game 7 deal probably causes indigestion to this day. We've gotten the best of the L*kers in the playoffs a couple of times, but no more than that. And it rankles.
In short, this is what it's all about. Short of making and fighting through the playoffs these are the games that boil the blood most. If you don't want to beat these guys an extra little bit you probably have to turn in your fan card.
Unfortunately we're not in very good position to do much right now. Even stocked with our regular lineup this year the chances would be slim. With Brandon Roy out? Sheesh. It's a wee bit anti-climactic. Then again, that won't matter much once the ball goes in the air.
The current story of the L*kers comprises two eras: B.P. and A.P. (before Pau and after). Many, MANY people speculated that the L*kers would suffer without the inspired play of Kwame Brown, but somehow they have managed. Before Pau got there they were 29-16, well on their way to a playoff spot but pretty much considered the Aquaman of Western Conference Justice League...capable in the right environment, nice uniform, now get out of the way while Superman and Batman do the job. They're 10-1 since Gasol arrived and they show no signs of stopping. They might not exactly be Superman Part Deux yet but Aquaman got himself a Bowflex, that's for sure.
The L*kers have topped 110 six times in their last eleven games. Scoring remains the nastiest part of their attack. But don't sleep on their defense either. They've allowed 100 only twice in that stretch. Kobe is still at the heart of their attack at but Pau has been averaging 22 points on 63% shooting since he put on that ugly uniform. Lamar Odom is now their third fiddle and even though his production has been down this year his last three games have been great and he makes a habit of destroying us. Fortunately young beast center Andrew Bynum is still out. After that the roster is filled with capable guys like Derek Fisher, Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, and Vladimir Radmanovic. Those guys don't exactly scare you, but they don't have to. All they need to do is not throw the game away so far that their big scorers can't retrieve it.
The L*kers are very, very efficient scorers. They average a ton of points on relatively few possessions. Not a one of their regular rotation players shoots poorly. You can't really cheat off of anyone, which is a real problem considering all the places you'd like to double-team. They are excellent from distance as well. As you might expect they draw significantly more fouls than their opponents and they're far removed from the days when Shaq would lose them the game from the stripe. Generally speaking you are not going to match the L*kers' offense. You better find another way to win.
The L*kers will sometimes give you those ways, through inattention if nothing else. At times they get absorbed in that same old Kobe game and don't pay enough attention to the rest of the game, allowing you a crack. If you can frustrate them you have a chance. But that's exponentially harder now than it was earlier this year. Your best hope is probably that they come out thinking they have a God-given right to win this game and then you teach them different.
But let's face it, that would be a major surprise and not particularly indicative of anything. In another couple of years this should be quite the battle in the West. At the moment though we don't have the guns to expect a positive outcome.
What I'd Like to See
This game is going to be all about emotion. The only way we even begin to have a chance is if we come out with plenty, perhaps surprising them. With Brandon out I am looking directly at Jarrett Jack, Martell Webster, and Travis Outlaw, all of whom are capable of stellar performances when they are fired up. We pretty much need all of them plus a lot of hustle plus a few bounces and calls to go our way. If there's no fight in us, however, we might as well give up right now. They will outmatch us in anything short of a pitched battle. Last year we nearly saw a fight in Staples Center. We need a repeat of that spirit or it's going to be a painful outing. And that's all there is to it.
P.S. At one point this was going to be our big Blazersedge Gameday Thread Party where we tried to break the single-game record for comments. Given the bad news about Brandon we're going to postpone that for another game. I hope traffic will be high anyway.
P.P.S. You can check out ForumBlueandGold this morning for some Blazer Q+A.