Team Records: LA Lakers (0-1) at Portland (0-0)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on KGW/NBA TV, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Lakers -2.5
Refs: Bill Kennedy, Tre Maddox, Leon Wood.
The Skinny: The Blazers open a new era and a new season against the upgraded Lakers at home Halloween night. Even if Kobe does not play against the Blazers Wednesday night, LA’s new additions Nash and Dwight Howard will cause plenty of trouble for the Blazers. Portland has won the last 11 straight home openers.
Last Season: The Blazers lost the season series to LA 2-1, losing both games in Los Angeles and winning the only time the teams faced off in Portland. It was the first time the Blazers have lost consecutive season series to the Lakers since they lost four straight season series from 1983-1987.
Projected Lakers Lineup (averages from the 2011-12 season):
PF-Pau Gasol (Spain-12th Season) 17.4 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.7 APG.
SF-Metta World Peace (St. John’s-14th Season)-7.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.2 APG.
C-Dwight Howard (Southwest Atlanta Christian (HS)-9th Season)-20.6 PPG, 14.5 RPG, 1.9 APG
SG-Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion (HS)-17th Season)-27.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.6 APG.
PG-Steve Nash (Santa Clara-17th Season)-12.5 PPG, 3 RPG, 10.7 APG.
Player to Watch-Dwight Howard (pictured at right)-In the end, Dwight Howard followed a path Shaq first laid down many years ago, get drafted first overall by the Magic, make the NBA Finals then bolt to the Lakers. It may have been the Nets Howard truly wanted but for the best center in the league the Lakers are certainly a good consolation. Howard is a dominant inside force who simply overpowers most of his opponents on both ends of the court. He is a ferocious defender, a strong rebounder and one of the best shot blockers of this era. His offense is effective as long as he stays close to the basket. His post game needs work and his free throw shooting is spotty at best. Yet, Howard is strong these things often don’t matter and the few negatives he has are far outweighed by his positives.
Did You Know?: Mike Brown is 10-3 all time vs. the Blazers as head coach, the highest winning percentage among active coaches who have faced the team at least six times.
Song of the Day: “This is Halloween” from the Nightmare before Christmas-One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite movies seems appropriate for this Halloween opener. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), Questionable-PG Ronnie Price (Ankle).
LA Lakers: Questionable-SG Kobe Bryant (Foot), Probable-C Jordan Hill (Herniated Disc), C Dwight Howard (Back).
Metta World Peace must feel a bit out of sorts for the Lakers at this point. He is the only one of the team’s five starters who is not among the best in the league at their position. The remainder of the LA starters, Nash, Pau Gasol, Kobe and Dwight Howard, are arguably the best core in the league today, or at least outside of Miami. What’s more, the Lakers seemingly addressed their primary weaknesses in moving the ball on offense and defense with the additions of Nash and Howard. The only concern with the additions is that LA apparently plans to run a slower paced Princeton style offense, which has not typically been Steve Nash’s forte. Still, while there might be an adjustment period, if you are going to assert that one of the best point guards we have ever seen won’t figure it out, you’re almost certainly wrong. LA’s bench is a concern but even there they are better than they were with the additions of Jamison and Meeks. The bottom line is that beating the Lakers will require both considerable skill, and for all but the top few teams, probably considerable luck as well.
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 walk out of Portland with a fairly easy win.