Editor’s Note: This preview was originally published on August 25, hours before NBA players participated in a strike in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We are re-publishing the piece ahead of the Blazers’ rescheduled Game 5 against L.A.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers (Series: 3-1, LA)
August 29, 2020 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Nassir Little (out), Zach Collins (out), Wenyen Gabriel (out), Rodney Hood (out), Trevor Ariza (opted out), Caleb Swanigan (opted out)
Lakers injuries: Rajon Rondo (doubtful), Anthony Davis (probable), LeBron James (probable), Kentavious Caldwll-Pope (probable), Avery Bradley (opted out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, TNT (or check out Fubo for your streaming needs)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll
Game 3 was bad. Really bad. Game 4 said hold my beer. In the space of a week the club went from irrational confidence and joy to utter despair. Game 4 may give the Portland Trail Blazers franchise nightmares for a very long time to come. 15 unanswered points to start the game. 43 Laker points in the first quarter. 80 Laker points in the first half. The Lakers did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. The final score of 135-115 honestly flattered the Blazers. It was a disaster.
It’s an indication of how big the disaster was that the best news out of the Blazers’ camp on Tuesday is that the knee injury sustained by Damian Lillard is “only” a sprain. Lillard is out for Game 5 and almost certainly for the rest of the series should the Blazers win a game or two, but the entire city of Portland breathed a huge sigh of relief that could surely be heard inside the Bubble. Early indications are that Lillard will eventually be ok. Knock on wood.
What to watch for
- CJ McCollum. With Damian Lillard sidelined, the runway is clear for CJ McCollum to put up some numbers. Portland will need it. While past performance is no guarantee of future results, we have some data that should be encouraging. Except for the win-loss thing. I’ll let Jason Quick fill in the details:
When Damian Lillard missed 6 games this season with a strained groin, CJ McCollum became starting PG. He averaged 33.3 points and 8.3 assists while shooting 48.3 percent. McCollum averaged 25.5 shots a game w/o Lillard, up from 18.7 shots playing with him. Blazers went 2-4.— Jason Quick (@jwquick) August 25, 2020
- Regression to the mean. The Lakers shot 34.9% from deep during the regular season, but over the last three games they are shooting 38.3%. That doesn’t tell the whole story though. If we stick to the starters, they shot 49.1% from beyond the arc these past three games, compared to 35.8% for the regular season. A starting five that contains James and Davis shooting near 50% from three is nigh near unbeatable. The deep ball simply has to fall less for the Blazers to have a chance.
- The Blazers need some breaks to fall their way. Maybe the Lakers decide to limit LeBron or Davis. Perhaps LA gets complacent. Could the Lakers find themselves in foul trouble? Something. Anything. When a few things go south it often seems that suddenly everything goes wrong. The Blazers need a jolt of confidence and belief. Perhaps the basketball gods can look down with benevolence and help the Blazers live to fight another day.
What they’re saying
One of the few things not clicking for the Lakers is free-throws. They are working on them according to Damian Buchart of Lakers Nation:
“Everybody made 100 free throws. Hopefully, we’ll shoot better at the free-throw line [Monday] night,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said after the team’s latest practice.
(Narrarator: They did not.)
LeBron James has his mind on more than just basketball as reported by Harrison Faigan of Silver Screen and Roll:
This time, it was Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father, shot in front of his children by police officers while attempting to enter his car, another victim of the excessive force that permeates policing. After the game, James was asked about it, and at one point, he apologized to the media for his wandering response, admitting that he can’t really enjoy the Lakers’ success or fully process this latest tragedy on what should have been a happy night for him and his teammates.
Kobe Bryant is never far from the thoughts of Lakers fans and his former teammates. Mark Medina of USA Today writes that Shaquille O’Neal has regret regarding Kobe:
The tears streamed down Shaquille O’Neal’s face when he reflected on Kobe Bryant both a day after his death and nearly a month later at his memorial. Nearly seven months later after sharing his initial thoughts about Bryant on TNT, the tears have not fully dried.