Team Records: Portland (17-15) at LA Lakers (18-13)
Game Info: 7:30 p.m., TV on TNT, Radio on 750 AM the Game
Vegas Line: Lakers -4.
Refs: Joe Crawford, Scott Twardoski, Leon Wood.
The Skinny: Fresh off of a key bounce back win over the Hawks on Saturday, the Blazers travel to LA for the second chapter of this year’s rivalry with the hated Lakers. The Blazers and Lakers both come in struggling a bit, with Portland playing up and down and the Lakers off a bad loss to the Suns last night. After Sunday’s loss in Phoenix, both Kobe and Pau Gasol told the press how frustrated they were with the uncertainty over whether Pau will or won’t be traded. Whether this turmoil affects the product on the court is yet to be seen.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers prevailed as the Lakers cooled off after they shot the lights out in the first half but held only a narrow lead. Gerald Wallace poured in 31 for Portland as they ended up running away with the game late to take the only meeting between the two in Portland this season.
Projected Lakers Lineup:
PF: Pau Gasol (Spain, 11th season) – 16.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3 APG
SF: Metta World Peace (St. John’s, 13th season) – 4.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.8 APG
C: Andrew Bynum (St. Joseph (HS), 7th season) – 16.3 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 1.3 APG
SG: Kobe Bryant (Lower Marion (HS), 16th season) – 28.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5 APG
PG: Derek Fisher (Arkansas Little Rock, 16th season) – 5.3 PPG, 2 RPG, 3.6 APG
Player to Watch: Metta World Peace (pictured at right) – There is no one in the league quite like the artist formerly known as Ron Artest and now known as Metta World Peace. Once a hothead who become the center of one of the infamous “Malace in the Palace”, an incident which effectively ended the title hopes of Indiana for at least the next decade, World Peace is not a hot head but he is still absolutely crazy. On the court, he is still a decent defender but that is about it. He is a bad enough shooter that at the first meeting between the two, Laker fans sitting near me were imploring him NOT to shoot the ball when open. If it comes down to any player on the Lakers taking a big shot for them late, you had best hope it is World Peace. If he does, he will probably not be celebrating, thanking his psychiatrist or asking any TNT sideline reporter to say “Queensbridge” as he did memorably a few years ago.
Did You Know?: Kobe Bryant is the youngest player to ever score 28,000 career points, about one year younger than Wilt Chamberlain when he accomplished the feat.
Song of the Day: “God Bless My SUV” by the political satirists the “Capitol Steps”. A song that mocks America’s love of big cars, this song was picked to mock LA’s love of their cars in general. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee).
LA Lakers: None.
Re-Evaluating the Lakers: Boringly Good
Last night’s blowout loss in Phoenix notwithstanding, the Lakers have been an improved team as of late. Flying under the radar due to the mix of the Miami Heat and Linsanity, you might wonder how the Lakers are doing it. The answer is simple, they just flat out execute teams. When the Lakers win, they play solid defense, rotate the ball to open shooters on offense and cut down on their turnovers. The Lakers have become the type of team that you could think you are playing well against and then you look up and they’re pulling away late. Its not showy but its effective enough to get them back in the mix for the western conference crown.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make Kobe selfish. Look, Kobe is a very good player, there is no doubt about that. Yet as dangerous as he is one-on-one, he is far more dangerous if opponents let him play distributor rather than scorer. If the Blazers can make Kobe try to beat them on his own, they will probably pull of the win Thursday.
LA Lakers win if: They control the boards. Bynum has become one of the league’s best rebounders this season. If he has another monster game on the glass, it will be hard for Portland to either get second chance points of their own or stop the Lakers from scoring easy putbacks. This would be a recipe for a Lakers win Monday.