Portland Trail Blazers (51-29) at Los Angeles Lakers (37-44)
Tuesday April 9 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Lakers injuries: Kyle Kuzma (out), Reggie Bullock (out), Tyson Chandler (out), Rajon Rondo (out), Lonzo Ball (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll
The Portland Trail Blazers arrive in Los Angeles fresh off of a win over the Denver Nuggets 115-108. Damian Lillard scored 30 points, but it was Al-Farouq Aminu who helped lift the team to victory with his first 20-10 game. He managed 23 points and 11 rebounds to secure the win. CJ McCollum returned to the lineup on a minutes restriction after missing 10 games due to a left knee injury, but he still logged nine points in 25 minutes.
The Los Angeles Lakers take on the Portland Trail Blazers after a win over the Utah Jazz 113-109. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the charge with 32 points, ending Utah’s seven-game win streak. Javale McGee had 22 points, while Alex Caruso had 18 points and 11 assists. Though the Lakers have been out of playoff contention for a while, they are still a dangerous opponent.
What to watch for
- Stepping up. Everyone on this Blazers squad has something to fight for as the team battles for home-court advantage in the first round. In the wake of injuries to CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, just about every player on the team has had their moment to shine.
- Energy. The Blazers need to maintain momentum in the second half. They very nearly let it slip against the Nuggets in the third quarter, which almost cost them the game down the stretch. They recovered following a revitalizing three-pointer from Damian Lillard, but they shouldn’t need to rely on Lillard Time to get them going. They are up against a young Lakers squad that has little to lose
- Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds. Against the Nuggets, securing the offensive glass made a key difference in the game flow. In the absence of Jusuf Nurkic, who averaged 3.4 offensive rebounds per game this season (a career-high), Al-Farouq Aminu, Enes Kanter, and Zach Collins have continued to step up to fill that gap. Second-chance points on offense will assist with momentum against this deceptively dangerous Lakers squad.
What they’re saying
Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times explains how Jemerrio Jones, the recent G-League call-up for the Lakers, has made an impact on his ten-day contract:
Jones, who says he’s 6-feet-5 with shoes on, made his first NBA start Sunday evening at Staples Center. He played 37 minutes and did what he does best — rebound. Jones grabbed 16 rebounds to go with five points and five assists. It was the first time a Laker had 16 or more rebounds in his starting debut since the NBA started tracking starters’ statistics in the 1970-71 season.
Over at Silver Screen and Roll, Harrison Faigen examines why Lakers head coach Luke Walton is resting Tyson Chandler and Rajon Rondo for the remainder for the season:
“Well Tyson hasn’t played in a month, so I’m gonna continue to not play him unless I need to. And Rondo I’m not going to play Tuesday night either unless we get into foul trouble, ejections, those type of things,” Walton said. “Those guys are available, but with one game left in the season we’re going to continue to give opportunities and reps to some of these younger players and see what they can do with that.”
What that means is that barring the circumstances Walton outlined, Chandler and Rondo could very well have played their last games in a Lakers uniform. Rondo had an up-and-down first season in L.A., only appearing in 46 games amidst an injury (and suspension)-riddled campaign. If this is it for Rondo, he will finish the season with averages of 9.2 points, 8 assists and 5.3 rebounds, but have made his biggest impact as a mentor to the young Lakers off the floor.
It’s not only LeBron’s skills that make him so compelling, it’s also the heightened stakes—whether manufactured or not—that follow him on every title run. Like, how will another championship affect the GOAT conversation? If LeBron’s team plays poorly in this big game, will the roster get blown up in the summer? Is James going to troll someone with his outfit as a direct result of something someone said during a press conference? Narrative has become a dirty word for people in certain circles of the sports internet (like, the MVP race), But putting each LeBron playoff run in the context of his entire career and what it means for his legacy is actually fun, and there’s no player scheduled to be in the postseason who brings the same aura around him.
There’s a lot on the line for playoff seeding on Tuesday. Find all of the possible scenarios here.