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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Preview

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The Trail Blazers host the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at the Moda Center after defeating them in L.A. just six days ago. Will Kobe Bryant continue down the path of a historically bad season?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (6-10) vs Los Angeles Lakers (2-12)
Saturday, November 28
Moda Center | 7 p.m. PST | Local TV/Radio: KGW; 620 AM
Portland injury report:
Meyers Leonard (Probable), Chris Kaman (Questionable) | Los Angeles injury report: None
SBN Affiliate:
Silver Screen and Roll | Blazer's Edge Night 2016

For the second time this week, the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Los Angeles Lakers. For detailed analysis, check out Bryan Renzi's Blazers vs. Lakers preview from last week.

The Lakers are bad this year. Really bad. Second-worst-offense and third-worst-defense in the league bad. They have a mismatched roster, a stubborn coach who seemingly refuses to develop no. 2 overall pick D'Angelo Russell, and Kobe Bryant, face of the franchise through five championships, is flat out, stick-a-fork-in-him, done.

Just for perspective, Kobe is shooting 31 percent from the field and 19 percent from the 3-point line on 16 shots per game. His eFG% of 35.3 percent is on pace to be the worst the NBA has seen in the last 48 years (greater than 500 FG attempts). Through 14 games, Bryant has accumulated -0.6 win shares, has an abysmal offensive rating of 86, and rates at -0.2 below replacement level (basketball-reference.com).

Los Angeles is playing so poorly this year that it's difficult for all but the most ardent Laker haters to experience any level of schadenfreude watching the franchise flounder; it's just sad. According to Elias, when the Golden State Warriors trounced them 111-77 on Tuesday night, L.A. did not have a single player score more than 10 points for the first time in their history, including the pre-shot clock era.

On November 22, the Blazers walked out of the Staples Center with a 107-93 win in which Portland held the Lakers to 36 percent shooting. Not merely a result of the aforementioned Laker woes, the Blazers handled business exactly how one would hope, getting out in transition, limiting turnovers, and getting solid defense from the starting unit.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both played efficient basketball, combining for 49 points of 20-38 shooting. Matching up with Russell and Jordan Clarkson in the backcourt, this sort of output is unsurprising, but the real key is that both players got their teammates involved, not allowing the defense to key in on them. Lillard led the team with a career-high 13 assists, and McCollum chipped in five dimes of his own.

Blazers center Mason Plumlee exploded for 17 points and 11 rebounds against Roy Hibbert. While Hibbert still has value on the defensive end, Plumlee was able to use his superior speed and athleticism to overcome his size disadvantage.

There will be a change in the other frontcourt spot as Meyers Leonard is expected to make his return after dislocating his shoulder against the San Antonio Spurs on November 11. If coach Terry Stotts decides to ease Leonard back into the starting lineup, look for Noah Vonleh to get the starting nod again. Should Leonard get significant minutes, it will be interesting to see how the Blazers adapt to having his floor-stretching capabilities back on the court. Vonleh can pull power forwards out of the lane, but he is nowhere near the deep threat that Leonard is at this juncture. On the defensive end, keeping Julius Randle off of the offensive glass will be a point of emphasis, as Randle hauled in seven offensive rebounds on his way to a 13 point, 13 rebound performance

Small forward Al-Farouq Aminu has seen his shooting cool considerably, hitting only 13 of 46 shots over his last five games, a 28 percent clip. With the Lakers sliding Kobe to SF, Aminu should spend most of his effort on the defensive end, working to force Bryant to take low percentage shots from outside. Kobe can still get hot if he's allowed to, but he simply can't take over a game at will anymore, only scoring over 20 points once this year, in the season opener against Minnesota.

Keys to the game

Continue to play effective team defense: The Blazers have done a nice job defensively this week, both in their win over Los Angeles and their loss to the Chicago Bulls. By rotating more cleanly and playing solid, if unspectacular one-on-one defense, Portland has allowed only 37.3 percent shooting for opponents this week. Portland plays a conservative scheme, which is fine against teams that struggle to move the ball cleanly, like the Lakers.

Share the ball: Los Angeles is a poor defensive team, plain and simple. As basic as it sounds, the more that Portland moves the ball, the greater their opportunity to find open shots. Lillard and McCollum, in particular, need to pick their spots and ensure that they are not dominating the offense and allowing Laker defenders to focus down on them.

Start strong: The Lakers have lost their last four games, all by double digits, and are searching for answers. Portland needs to set the tone early and never let the Lakers feel like they have a chance. Even the worst team can steal a game if they are allowed to hang around long enough.