Team Records: Portland (14-13) at LA Lakers (14-15)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Lakers -9
Refs: Rodney Mott, Courtney Kirkland, Haywoode Workman
The Skinny: The Blazers travel south to LA to face the nearly full strength but still struggling LA Lakers. The Lakers had been a horrible run until recently, falling as many as five games below .500 before reeling off five straight wins before a loss in Denver Wednesday. The Lakers have won nine of the last ten meetings between the teams in LA.
Last Time They Met: Portland opened up their season with a banner win over the Lakers as Lillard recorded a double double in his NBA debut. Portland used a big run in the second to pull ahead for good and won fairly comfortably in the end.
Projected Lakers Lineup:
PF-Pau Gasol (Spain-12th Season) 12.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.9 APG.
SF-Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion (HS)-17th Season)-30.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG.
C-Dwight Howard (Southwest Atlanta Christian (HS)-9th Season)-17.5 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2 APG
SG-Darius Morris (Michigan-2nd Season)-4.9 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.2 APG.
PG-Steve Nash (Santa Clara-17th Season)-10.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 7.2 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 as, despite his recent offensive surge, he is not typically strong on that end of the court. 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 recently became the youngest ever to each 30,000 career points, and only the fifth player ever to reach that milestone. However, due to the young age at which he started, it took Bryant more games than the other four (Chamberlain, Jordan, Abdul Jabar and Malone) to reach the 30,000 point mark.
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-SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), Questionable-SG Wesley Matthews (Hip)
LA Lakers: Out-PG Steve Blake (Abdominal Surgery), Probable-PF Pau Gasol (Foot), C Jordan Hill (Herniated Disc).
Re-Evaluating the Lakers: Why Lakers Fans Shouldn’t Panic
It wasn’t a secret that Mike Brown was not a favorite among the Lakers players at the start of the season but it still had to be a surprise when he got the quick hook only a few games in. When the next coach was not LA’s savior Phil Jackson but instead Mike D’Antoni, many Laker fans were underwhelmed. When the Lakers slumped to 9-14 following a rout in New York, the question was legitimately being asked as to whether dramatic change was needed. The answer is a resounding no as LA’s problems are more due to injuries than anything else. Yes their defense is still subpar and yes they are still too reliant on Kobe but integrating Nash and Howard was never going to be a smooth process. Remember how loud the alarm bells rang when Miami’s big 3 failed to mesh immediately? While Miami’s transition wasn’t as rough as this but something tells me, LA will be fine and while they might not be as good as they thought, they are still pretty damn good.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make the Lakers selfish. The key to beating both Kobe and Nash has always been to make them beat you with their shots, which deadly as they are, aren’t quite as effective as when they are 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.