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Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Preview

The Blazers head to Southern California for the first of two matchups against the LA teams.

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NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trailblazers at Los Angeles Lakers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers will face the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at the Staples Center. The 1-1 Blazers will look to make this their second win in a row following great performances by both CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard two nights ago in an overtime win over Houston. The 2-1 Lakers are looking to win their third straight after suffering a disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on opening night.

Monday December 28 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How To Watch: NBCSNW, NBA TV, or see games all season on fuboTV, follow on ESPN+, or the ESPN/Disney Bundle*
Blazers Injuries: Zach Collins (out), Nassir Little (day-to-day), Carmelo Anthony (out)
Lakers Injuries: Alex Caruso (out)
SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll

*Blazer’s Edge receives a commission when you subscribe through these links.

What To Watch For

  • Star Match-up. Damian Lillard and LeBron James headline the Blazers and Lakers respectively, and the game will be defined by how well these two play. Lillard is so far averaging just 20.5 points per game this season, but that number is skewed due to an uncommon single digit scoring performance in the Blazers’ opener. LeBron is averaging 20.7 points per game so far this season, well below his career average. Both Lillard and LeBron will be looking to score more than their season average so far, and it will be up to the defense of both teams to attempt to slow down the superstars.
  • Blazers Wing Defense. The Blazers made two key additions this offseason in Derrick Jones Jr. and Robert Covington in an attempt to address their weakness at defending the wing position. So far this season, the Blazers defense has been much worse than expected despite the focus on defensive improvement. As the season progresses further it will become more apparent as to whether or not the current Blazers defensive woes are real, or if they are growing pains of a new roster. The Blazers are hopeful it is the latter, and that they can put enough of their wing defense together to contain LeBron.
  • Lakers Back-to Back. The Lakers are coming off of a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves from last night, and tonight will be their third game in four nights, as they played on Christmas as well. The fatigue from three quick games is likely to be setting in, and the Lakers could be a step slower than they normally would be. The Blazers will be looking to capitalize on this, as they have had a day to rest since their last game.

What Others Are Saying

Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll talks about the Lakers’ lack of seven footers, and how that impacts how they play.

This season, the Lakers are one of 14 NBA teams — less than half the league — to not have a single player listed at seven feet tall or larger on their roster. Marc Gasol is closest at 6’11, while Davis and two-way player Kostas Antetokounmpo are the only other Lakers listed at 6’10 or above. The Lakers are still big at just about every position — they started 6’9 Kyle Kuzma at shooting guard during a preseason game, for God’s sake — but while the rest of the league loaded up on big men to counter the popular perception of how the Lakers won, the Lakers zagged again, as their backup center (so far) has mostly been reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, who is certainly faster and stronger than many of the opponents in front of him, but is rarely bigger, being listed at just 6’7.

Eric D. Williams of Sports Illustrated’s All Lakers talked about the importance of the off season additions of Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schröder.

What Harrell has meant to the Lakers inside, new addition Dennis Schröder has provided on the perimeter, playing sticky, full-court defense and pushing the pace on misses that result in easy buckets on the other end.

Harrell signed a two-year, $19 million deal with the Lakers in free agency, moving on from the Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers received the electric Schröder in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder last month for Danny Green and the rights to draft pick Jaden McDaniels.

Both have provided much-needed energy for an L.A. team coming off an NBA title with a condensed offseason, needing to manage the minutes of star players LeBron James and Anthony Davis.