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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Preview

The Blazers look for a win in their first nationally televised game of the season.

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (4-4) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (3-4)

Thursday, November 2nd - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Meyers Leonard (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Lakers injuries: None
How to watch on TV: TNT
How to stream: Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll

Injury updates:

The Portland Trail Blazers hope to get back on track against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second game of a back-to-back. Portland is coming off a tough overtime loss in Utah last night. The Lakers are coming off an impressive win against the surprisingly red-hot Detroit Pistons Tuesday after losing their previous game to the Jazz in Utah.

What to watch for

  • A balanced Laker offense. The Lakers have eight players averaging over 10 points per game, but none who are scoring more than 15 a night. They are led by Jordan Clarkson, who puts up 14.7 points per game in 19.6 minutes off the bench. The Blazers’ offense, by contrast, is much more top-heavy; only three players are averaging double figures. Lillard and McCollum are shouldering most of the load with averages of 25.4 and 22.1 points per game, respectively.
  • Lonzo Ball. You may have heard the rookie point guard’s name mentioned a time or two in the national media. With the way his performance (and shoe choices) are analyzed daily, one would think he was one of the most important players in the NBA. In reality, he’s having a solid, if flawed, rookie season. He’s averaging 10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 7.0 assists in 34 minutes per game. Those rebounding and assist numbers rank third and second among rookies. Ball’s shooting, however, has left a lot to be desired—33.3 percent from the field, 28.6 from three, and 55.6 from the free throw line—and his defense has received mixed reviews.
  • Can the Blazers’ backcourt shine? After talk of an early season slump, Damian Lillard has put together back-to-back solid performances. He scored 36 on 12-of-23 shooting against Toronto on Monday and 33 on 12-of-27 shooting last night against the Jazz. CJ McCollum meanwhile has played poorly in consecutive games, scoring 16 in each of his last two while shooting a combined 11-for-36.

What they’re saying

The Lakers are toward the top of the league in pace this season, but, according to Silver Screen and Roll’s Drew Garrison, coach Luke Walton wants them to play even faster.

Coach Luke elaborated that it’s not about wanting his team to put up fast shots, it’s about constant kinetic energy in their offense. His view of pace and tempo is beyond possessions per 48, but how the Lakers execute within their sets.

“I don't want people holding the ball. If you're open shoot it, if you're not, swing it to someone, go set a screen, penetrate the paint, kick it to somebody else... but I want to play fast in the halfcourt motion of what we're trying to do. I think we have way too many possessions where we catch and hold it, and we lose our momentum that we've built up so far,” Walton said.

The Lakers are already playing at one of the fastest paces in the entire league, but there’s more nuance to it than running up the court to clunk an early attempt off the rim. Walton wants the Lakers moving with purpose.

Last season Los Angeles was the league’s worst defense, but Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times, referencing the Lakers’ win against Detroit, wrote about the improvement of their defense.

The Lakers actually play defense now. They fought and scrapped and ran back in transition, delighting their head coach who has been looking for this for more than a year. And on Tuesday night they kept it going for an entire game.

The Pistons (5-3) opened the trip with impressive wins over the Clippers and Warriors, but the Lakers (3-4) managed to hold their opponent under 100 points for the third time in four games, and in back-to-back for the first time.

“It all starts with effort and caring about wanting to get better,” coach Luke Walton said. “You have to learn to really embrace and enjoy how hard it is to play like that.”