Update (12:45 pm): After missing five games, Damian Lillard has been upgraded to Probable for tonight’s game. As OregonLive’s Mike Richman notes, there have been strong hints since yesterday that Lillard would be ready to return tonight.
Damian Lillard has been upgraded to probable for tonight vs. Los Angeles. All signs point to him playing.— Mike Richman (@mikegrich) January 5, 2017
Los Angeles Lakers (13-25) at Portland Trail Blazers (15-22)
Jan. 5, 2017, 7:30 PST
Watch: CSNNW, TNT; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (questionable), Festus Ezeli (out)
Lakers injuries: Luol Deng (questionable), Larry Nance Jr. (out)
SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll
One night after falling to the Golden State Warriors by a score of 125-117, the Portland Trail Blazers return to the friendly confines of the Moda Center to take on the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.
After a surprising 7-5 start to the season, Luke Walton’s Lakers have crashed back to reality in a major way, going 6-20 since Nov. 18. The major issue, as it has been in Portland, has been the defense; according to basketball-reference.com, the Lakers currently sport a 112.5 DRtg, 29th in the league and 0.4 points better than the Trail Blazers.
Though the team is not a major challenger this season, there is cause for optimism in Los Angeles. With Kobe Bryant retired and Byron Scott mercifully relieved of his duties, the youngsters have shown promise; D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle have emerged as players with real upside, while Jordan Clarkson has continued to develop into a a super-sub hybrid guard to pair with leading scorer and former NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams.
Brandon Ingram, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, has struggled to adapt to the pro game thus far, though he has shown enough flashes of brilliance that fans have yet to really be concerned. Currently, the 19-year-old is putting up only seven points and four boards on 37 percent shooting from the floor and 24 percent from the 3-point line.
In addition to this young talent, the Lakers spent $136 million to bring in former Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov and Miami swingman Luol Deng this summer. While a lot of the logic behind the signings was to bring in a couple of veterans to mentor the young guys and teach them how to play the game the right way, the pair has been disappointing on the court, with Deng putting up eight points and six rebounds and Mozgov averaging eight points and five boards of his own.
Portland, meanwhile, continues to focus on defense while hoping that Lillard will be able to go tonight. If he is active, expect Lillard - along with CJ McCollum - to have a bounce in his step and to go right at the Lakers’ perimeter defenders. L.A. playa at a fast pace, both putting up and allowing the most field goal attempts per game in the league. It can be easy to get caught up in an up and down game against teams that are effective at forcing the opposition to play sloppily, but at this point in the Lakers’ arc, teams are able to run right with them and get enough stops to put them away night after night.
As long as Portland isn’t too worn out from playing a fairly competitive game in Oakland last night, they should be able to put Los Angeles away, especially if Lillard is activated. If nothing else, this should be an uptempo, entertaining game with a lot of points being put on the board.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!