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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Preview

Portland takes on the Lakers for the first time this season.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (9-13) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (19-3)

December 6, 2019 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Gary Trent Jr. (questionable)
Lakers injuries: Avery Bradley (out), DeMarcus Cousins (out), Anthony Davis (probable), Kyle Kuzma (probable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ESPN
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll

Portland is the latest road block for the rampage that the Los Angeles Lakers have been on. The visitors have won 12 of their last 13, and it will be up to the Blazers to slow their roll.

The Trail Blazers took care of business Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings 127-116. CJ McCollum has seemingly recovered from a slow start to the season, scoring 33 points and adding four blocks, while Hassan Whiteside had 22 points, 16 rebounds, and 7 assists.

Last time out, the Lakers took care of the Utah Jazz 121-96. LeBron James had 20 points and 12 assists, though none as big as the one he got from the referees in the second quarter.

What to watch for

  • Who guards LeBron? In previous seasons, the herculean task of guarding LeBron James was left to Al-Farouq Aminu, who did a serviceable job. The reality is that the Trail Blazers simply do not have an on-ball defender who can match LeBron’s strength and size. Kent Bazemore has the skill, but not the size. Skal Labissiere has the size, but not the skill. Nassir Little has the fire, but not the experience. Guarding James will be a problem.
  • Who guards the Brow? Portland faces a similar issue with Anthony Davis. Davis is exactly the kind of big that gives Hassan Whiteside fits: a player who can attack at the rim, but also draw Whiteside out of the paint. If Whiteside doesn’t close (which is still an issue for him), Davis will simply shoot threes, to which he is shooting 40.3% on the season. With the Blazers so depleted at the frontcourt positions, Davis could have a monster game at Portland’s expense.
  • Go two versus two. If there was ever a game for the two stars of the Portland Trail Blazers to get rolling at the same time, this is it. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will both need to be hitting from range, and hitting often, if Portland wants to win. Defense is not going to be the winning factor for either side. It will come down to which team’s stars shine brightest.

What they’re saying

Darius Soriano of Silver Screen and Roll talked about Kyle Kuzma’s new role on the Lakers:

Kuzma’s continued to play through those latter ailments, but his game has been up and down as he’s adjusted to his new role as a bench player who’s seen his minutes, shots and touches go down playing on a team with championship aspirations.

Sam Quinn of CBS Sports shouted down at those who doubt the Lakers:

In that sense, Wednesday’s 121-96 shellacking of the Utah Jazz reads like a Mad Lib. “Go beat a Finals contender,” a doubter may have challenged. “By 25 points... on the road... on the second night of a back-to-back... without Avery Bradley... while half of your roster deals with a flu outbreak.” Challenge accepted. Challenge completed. And at this point, few challenges are left to be issued.