Team Records: Portland (22-25) at LA Lakers (29-18)
Game Info: 7:30 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 750 AM the Game
Vegas Line: Lakers -9.
Refs: Bill Kennedy, Tommy Nunez Jr., Sean Wright.
The Skinny: Fresh off of a win last night over Memphis at home, the Blazers travel south to face their old rivals the LA Lakers. The Blazers will have to play one of their best games of the year to have any shot tonight and it will be interesting to see what they have left after going all out to beat the Grizzlies. The Lakers come in off a convincing road win over the Mavericks Wednesday but had lost their two games before that to Houston and Utah.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers notched a franchise low 7 points in the first quarter and it was basically all garbage time from then on. The Blazers kind of made it interesting early in the fourth but the flat start left little doubt who would win this one.
Projected Lakers Lineup:
PF: Pau Gasol (Spain, 11th season) – 17 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 3.3 APG
SF: Metta World Peace (St. John’s, 13th season) – 5.7 PPG, 3 RPG, 2 APG
C: Andrew Bynum (St. Joseph (HS), 7th season) – 17.8 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 1.5 APG
SG: Kobe Bryant (Lower Marion (HS), 16th season) – 28.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.7 APG
PG: Steve Blake (Maryland, 9th season) – 5.1 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 3.5 APG
Player to Watch: Ramon Sessions (pictured at right) – The one glaring weakness the Lakers had was at the point guard spot and they addressed that quite nicely when they acquired Sessions a week ago. Sessions is very good at running the pick and roll and has a natural feel for how to run an offense more generally. He is decent driving to the hoop but struggles at longer jumpers. On defense, the story is not so rosy. He ranked among the worst point guards defensively last year and, in fact, pretty much can’t defend point guards, often being forced to guard shooting guards. Still, he is a significant upgrade on offense and the Lakers team D is good enough to cover for Sessions most of the time. Strangely he doesn’t start, Steve Blake does, proving that Nate McMillan isn’t the only coach with a perhaps unwarranted fondness for Blake.
Did You Know?: Kobe Byrant is tied for fourth in the league this year with nine technical fouls.
Song of the Day: “Champions” by Ron Artest (this was before he changed his name to Metta World Peace). I personally believe almost anything done by Artest/Metta World Peace is hilarious. The video of this song certainly is. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliot Williams (Shoulder), SF Shawne Williams (Foot).
LA Lakers: None.
Re-Evaluating the Lakers: Selfish Kobe
When the Lakers have struggled these past few years, it has often been because of one major thing, Kobe Byrant trying to do it all on his own. When Kobe tries to take over the game it sometimes turns out well but more often than not, he becomes a black hole on offense, firing up more and more missed shots as his team sputters on offense. In fact, the Lakers do best when Kobe takes somewhere between 7-20 shots. When he takes less than that (which would probably only happen if you literally sawed one of Kobe’s arms off) they struggle but when he takes more than 20, they have a losing record. So as noted below in our bottom line, the key for Portland is to make Kobe think he has to take over the game.
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 might well pull of the win Friday.
LA Lakers win if: They control the boards. Bynum has become one of the league’s best rebounders by himself. 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 Friday.