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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Preview

The Blazers look to build on their solid start against the old enemy, the Los Angeles Lakers

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers

Portland Trail Blazers (2-0) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-2)

The Portland Trail Blazers have come out of the chute winning their first two games, surprising critics and delighting fans. Now it’s time for their next test: a Sunday matinee on the road against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.

On Friday night, the Blazers opened up the home schedule with a gutsy 113-111 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns. Damian Lillard defied the doubters with 41 points, but important contributions came from up and down the roster. Jusuf Nurkić, in particular, drew special praise for 20 points and 17 rebounds.

At the other end of the emotional scale are the Lakers, losers of their first two games. It’s never a great sign when your fans are spending more time creating fake trades than they do supporting your team. Make no mistake though, this team has talent and has shown flashes, especially on the defensive end. If they can get a few more shots to fall they could yet turn into a team that does damage in the West. Especially if they make a trade.

Sunday, October 23 - 12:30 p.m. PT

How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, SPECSN, NBA League Pass

Blazers injuries: Gary Payton II (out), Olivier Sarr (out), Trendon Watford (out)

Lakers injuries: LeBron James (probable), Anthony Davis (probable), Tony Brown Jr. (probable), Dennis Schroder (out), Thomas Bryant (out) Cole Swinder (out),

SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll

The Matchup

  • Russel Westbrook. It would be hard to overstate how badly the Lakers have shot the last two games. While Westbrook isn’t the only culprit responsible for Laker shooting woes, he’s certainly been the recipient of the most scorn, from fans and those covering the Lakers alike. Small sample size of course, but he’s shooting 30.4% from the field and a microscopic 11.1% from deep. Westbrook has two avenues for helping his team improve: make some shots or just stop shooting. Portland would be wise to encourage Westbrook to see what’s behind door number one. Expect to see Blazers defenders practically begging him to let fly, especially from behind the arc.
  • Beware of the turnover. The Blazers and the Lakers are tied for 19th worst in turnovers so far in this young season at 16 per game. The Lakers however are second best so far in the NBA at forcing turnovers with their opponents committing an average of 20.5 per game. That’s an average of four more turnovers committed by Lakers opponents than Portland opponents. Winning the turnover battle could be a significant key to winning this game.
  • Seize the momentum. Lakers fans are restless. After opening with two losses, many Lakers backers are already having visions of another lost season with an aging LeBron on the roster. Emotions will be running high. Portland can either use that to its advantage or suffer the consequences. If the Blazers can get the jump on the Lakers, it won’t just be Portland players that LeBron and company will be facing, but also 20,000 fans in the arena. Even LeBron might not be strong enough to carry that load. On the other hand, if the Lakers get a sniff of real success, it might well be a growing cathartic wave for LA that will be too much for the Blazers to handle. Not allowing the Lakers to find momentum is absolutely key for Portland to come away victorious.

What Others Are Saying

Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register sees roster problems and no easy answers for the Lakers.

Through their first two games, the Lakers have the lowest offensive rating in the NBA (94.5 points per 100 possessions). While the small sample size has come against two expected title contenders and with a mostly made-over roster, the early results have been jarring: The Lakers are 19 for 85 from 3-point range, contributing to their 38.8% shooting overall.

Russel Westbrook? Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times doesn’t mince words.

They can’t move forward with him. They are eventually going to spin into oblivion because of him. They need him gone now.

In spite of starting the season 0-2, Cooper Halpern of Silver Screen and Roll sees reason for optimism about the Lakers.

After two games against some of the league’s best defenses, the Lakers are averaging the fifth-most wide open threes per game. If that holds, they could be in for some serious positive regression which would undoubtedly buoy their offensive rating.