Team Records: LA Lakers (41-37) at Portland (33-44)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Lakers -5
Refs: Tom Washington, Matt Boland, Kane Fitzgerald
The Skinny: The Blazers look to pull a rabbit out of a hat as they look to take what is left of their injury-riddled lineup and pull off a win that would likely be fatal to LA’s playoff hopes. The Lakers are currently leading the Jazz by a half game for the final playoff spot.
Last Time They Met: Refs+Kobe=Lakers win that shouldn’t have been.
Projected Lakers Lineup:
PF-Pau Gasol (Spain-12th Season)-13.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.7 APG.
SF-Earl Clark (Louisville-4th Season) 7.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.1 APG.
C-Dwight Howard (Southwest Atlanta Christian (HS)-9th Season)-16.7 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.4 APG
SG-Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion (HS)-17th Season)-27 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.1 APG.
PG-Steve Blake (Maryland-10th Season)-6.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.7 APG.
Player to Watch-Pau Gasol (pictured at right)- It has not been the season Pau Gasol would have wanted. He has been hurt much of it, playing in only 44 games this year, and has been less than stellar when he has played. Gasol’s PER this year is a full five points below his worst previous year (last year) and his production is down in all categories. Still, even a diminished Pau Gasol is dangerous and Portland will have to closely watch him on Wednesday.
Did You Know?: Kobe Bryant recently passed Wilt Chamberlain for 4th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Next up is Michael Jordan, about a thousand points away for Kobe.
Song of the Day: “Now You’re a Man” from the movie Orgazamo. This NSFW song has been running through my head all day. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), SG Wesley Matthews (Ankle), Doubtful-SF Nicolas Batum (Shoulder), Questionable-C JJ Hickson (Back).
LA Lakers: Out- C Jordan Hill (Hip), Doubtful-PG Steve Nash (Hamstring).
Re-Evaluating the Lakers: A Season of LA Shortfalls
The Lakers are not the only LA team that has vastly underperformed expectations this year, in fact that were the rule in much of the LA sports scene, with only the MLS’s LA Galaxy living up to their expectations in winning their second straight title (and the NHL’s Kings coming out of nowhere to win it all). UCLA basketball was recently bounced in their first tournament game and their coach was fired despite a highly rated recruiting class, both the LA Angels and Dodgers failed to make the playoffs last year despite much heralded acquisitions and USC football set a new record for most losses by a preseason #1 team. So you see, the Lakers aren’t any different than most LA teams expected to do well this year, as they have fallen well short of expectations.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make the Lakers selfish. The key to beating Kobe has always been to make him beat you with his shot, which deadly as it is, isn’t quite as effective as when Kobe is moving the ball to open shooters. It’s a long shot but frankly with the talent deficit the Blazers have, it’s the best chance they’ve got.
LA Lakers win if: They play their game. The Lakers are the better team and if they come in and play anywhere close to their potential, they should come out with a fairly easy win.