Team Records: Portland (13-3) vs. LA Lakers (8-8)
Game Info: 6:30 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -3
Refs: Ken Mauer, Kevin Culter, Pat Fraher
The Skinny: The Blazers look to open December with a bang as they face their most hated rival, the LA Lakers, in the first of three matchups this season. The Lakers have done reasonably well this year, hanging at .500 despite missing Bryant and Nash. The Lakers have won five of their last six including three straight at home.
Last Season: The Lakers won the season series 3-1, winning the final three games after the Blazers took the opening night matchup at home. Portland has lost the season series between the two teams three years in a row for the first time since the mid-80s.
Projected Lakers Lineup:
PF-Jordan Hill (Arizona-5th Season) 9.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.1 APG.
SF-Wesley Johnson (Syracuse-4th Season)-8.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 APG.
C-Pau Gasol (Spain-13th Season)-14.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 3.1 APG
SG-Jodie Meeks (Kentucky-5th Season)-12.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, .7 APG.
PG-Steve Blake (Maryland-11th Season)-9.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 7.6 APG.
Player to Watch-Pau Gasol (pictured at right)-Pau has to feel lonely at this point, the only healthy remaining piece of LA’s last championship run is forced to carry the load on a team that is playing remarkably well despite missing two future hall of famers. Pau is his usual self this year, playing decent enough defense, averaging a double double (in no small part due to Dwight Howard’s departure leaving more rebounds for Pau to grab) and generally being steady . If there is one thing that has not gone well, however, it is Pau’s shooting, which has dropped to 43.2% from what had been a career low 46.6% last year. Bottom line though, Pau may be on the decline but he is still a good enough player to give you plenty of trouble any given night.
Did You Know?: Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni is fifth in the NBA in wins among active head coaches behind Popovich, Adelman, Rivers and Carlisle) .
Song of the Day: “God Bless My SUV” from the Capitol Steps-In honor of LA’s love affairs with their cars. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
LA Lakers: Out-SG Kobe Bryant (Achilles), PG Steve Nash (Nerve Root Inflammation)
These ain’t the showtime Lakers anymore. Instead they look more like the Lakers that you find in some second-rate B-movie, since minus Pau Gasol they lack any true star power or even particularly good player. Yet they are getting it done fairly well so far. The Lakers are middle of the road in both offense and defense. On offense, the key for the Lakers is three point shooting. In wins the Lakers make nearly 12 3s a game at a 43% clip, however in losses they make only 9 3s at a 38% clip. On defense they Lakers do a decent enough job rebounding and when they can hold an opponent to one shot they are effective. The key to beating the Lakers is to make them shoot inside the line and to beat them like crazy on second chance points. If you can do that, they are very vulnerable.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They guard the 3 point line effectively. The Lakers are even more dependent than the Blazers on making 3s in order to win. If the Blazers can make them inefficient from deep, they should be able to get the road win.
LA Lakers win if: They play from ahead. The Lakers are not a team that has shown a lot of spark coming back from big deficits this year. It is essential for LA that they play from ahead and control the game if they are to win.