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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers Preview

With deadline drama largely over the Blazers set their sights on defeating the Lakers.

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers (26-31) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (27-29)

The Portland Trail Blazers are back on the court after the Gary drama to face the Los Angeles Lakers in a duel between two teams that find themselves on the edge of the playoff picture. The latest player acquisitions should be in uniform for both teams, so it should be fun. On Friday the Blazers played a wild game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but (stop me if you’ve heard this before) couldn’t seal the deal in the fourth quarter, losing 138-129.

Lakers fans are feeling somewhat better about their deadline deals than Blazers fans, bringing in reinforcements while sending out perpetual piñata Russel Westbrook. Not all is happy in Laker-land though, as questions are surfacing abut LeBron James’ health. In fact, one of the primary questions about this game is whether James will suit up. On Saturday he didn’t, but the Lakers still defeated those shifty Golden State Warriors by a score of 109-103.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers - Monday, February 13 - 7:00 p.m. PT

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

Blazers injuries: Justise Winslow (out), Ibou Badji (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Matisse Thybulle (questionable), Kevin Knox II (questionable), Jerami Grant (questionable)

Lakers injuries: Mo Bamba (out), LeBron James (questionable), Anthony Davis (probable)

SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll

The Matchup

  • Anthony Davis. What version of Anthony Davis will we get? The one who scored 55 against Washington, or the one who went 0-6 in the first quarter against Golden State on Saturday and finished with 13 points on 5 for 19 shooting? Davis is an absolute nightmare matchup for the Blazers and if he’s firing on all cylinders it’s hard to see how the Blazers can overcome that. On the other hand, Davis has scored fewer than 24 points for three games in a row, and if Portland can make it four games in a row they’ll like their chances.
  • Take advantage at the three point line. Drawing conclusions by looking at season-long statistics is always perilous, but especially so after the trade deadline. The whole reason for making trades for a team that fancies itself a playoff team is to shore up weaknesses. At 33.8 percent for the season, three pointers have been a weakness for the Lakers. “Not so fast” I hear you say, “the Lakers have gotten rid of Westbrook, addition by subtraction!”. Perhaps in theory, but it didn’t work out that way on Saturday when they shot 32 percent. We’ll see if that number goes up for Los Angeles as the season plays out, but regardless the Blazers are capable of getting an advantage beyond the arc. It’s important that they do so.
  • Don’t let the game be decided on the free throw line. The Lakers get the second fewest whistles called against them in the NBA, fractionally behind the Bucks. The Blazers are in 20th. As you’d expect, the Lakers also take a lot of free throws, third most in the league. Fortunately the Blazers aren’t too shabby at getting to the line themselves, so while the Blazers aren’t always getting a high number of whistles, they are still getting to the line a respectable amount. Damian Lillard is a prime reason why at fifth in the League at free throws attempted. Portland needs to be aggressive in getting to the line to keep things even. If they can do that they’ll give themselves a pretty good chance.

What Others Are Saying

Trying to make sense of LeBron’s injury situation isn’t easy. Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll gives it a shot.

But whether you think the team is only listing a real, but mostly insignificant issue so they can rest him for scheduled maintenance without getting fined by the NBA, or if you actually think they believe his playing status has been in some level of doubt for the last 35 games, it’s clear he’s long been dealing with something in his lower left leg.

Jack Maloney of CBS notes that the Lakers got better, but how much?

The message finally got through to the Lakers’ brass, and the roster is now better than it was earlier in the season. Whether that will be enough for the Lakers to get into the playoffs at this point, however, remains to be seen. At 25-31, they’re stuck in 13th place in the Western Conference and 2.5 games out of even a play-in tournament spot.

How would you react?