On Tap: The Portland Trailblazers

Kurt —  February 21, 2006

Record: 18-33 (17-34 Pythagorean), last in the West
Record last 10 games: 3-7 (same as the Lakers, sadly)
Offensive Rating: 102 (29th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 112.3 (28th in the league)

The goal: There are 30 games left in the regular season, and if the Lakers are going to get to 45 wins, they are going to have to go 19-11 to do it. They likely need to do that, or at least 18-12, to make the playoffs. They have some winnable games coming up that they need to capitalize on, then win most of the games against the teams they are fighting for a playoff spot with (Sacramento on Thursday is a start). If they could steal one of the three games against San Antonio they have left, or one of the games against a Cleveland or Phoenix, it would be a big boost. Basically, they need to get hot.

The good news is this is about the best team to start a run against.

Final All Star game thoughts: It goes to show you just how much the little-discussed guys can mean. Know who had the best +/- for the West? Elton Brand. Out East, it was the two guys on the floor for the second-half run of that side — Billups (+14) and Wallace (+19) from Detroit.

The Lakers coming in: Hopefully the long weekend let the bad taste of the team’s recent play get replaced with some enthusiasm for the rest of the season. Defense will be the key. The Lakers have been inconsistent at the defensive end of late, something more in their head and effort than their feet. How they have done defensively has determined recent games — play well and you blow out Houston, take the night off and Atlanta outscores you.

The good news, Chris Mihm is expected back tonight, playing with a pad but still giving the Lakers a stable inside presence. Apparently, we will see more of Bynum in the coming weeks as well, a good thing as he needs the experience (and usually plays fairly well). And Let’s hope Phil decides to start Cook at the four and bring Kwame off the bench.

Things I’m trying to do: Get through this preview without making a “Sebastian Telfair was just protecting himself from Dick Cheney” joke. Oops. Damn.

About the Trailblazers: With all due respect to Henry and other Blazer Fans out there — this team sucks. They have been weak on offense and on defense, their young guys have looked young. For a little while things looked better, but the week before the break things reverted to form.

That said, last time these two played the backcourt of Juan Dixon (27 points) and Steve Blake (19) torched the Lakers, plus Ruben Paterson came off the bench for another 21. The LA backcourt is going to have to be focused and play defense tonight. Smush, I’m looking at you.

On the season, Joel Przybilla has been solid at center, with a PER of 16 and a true shooting percentage of 58.1%, plus pulling down 16.3% of the rebounds when he is on the floor. In the last 10 games, Zach Randolf has been their best player, but his scoring continues to be inefficient (shooting just 44% [eFG%] this season).

By the way, expect to hear plenty of trade talk during the game. Ruben Paterson is on the block, and may try to be showcasing his defense against Kobe (he had 41 the last time these two hooked up). Theo Ratliff also could be on the move.

One thing I hope to see tonight: Kobe pass like he did to Tracy McGrady in the All Star game — and the other Lakers shoot like McGrady.

Key’s to a Laker win: Just play some damn defense, they should be able to score plenty against Portland. While the Lakers should beat the Trailblazers, they’ve already lost to them once this season. Just like Atlanta, the Lakers can’t afford to look past anyone.

Kurt

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5 responses to On Tap: The Portland Trailblazers

  1. Everyone should hit the “Henry” link and read his review of The Show by Roland Lazenby. Just finished it up myself, but I didn’t go from front to back, but bounced around which works well with the interview format. Gives a good historical percpective of the organization (They were originally the Detroit Gems) and fills in a lot of gaps in the process. Even if you are not interested in the fact that the Lakers with a 25-50 regular season record made it to the West Finals in 1959 led by rookie Elgin Baylor. You will be interested in the behind the scenes glimpse into the moods and motivations of Kobe Bryant. How did he ever recover from those four air balls?

    One complaint: not enough Chick Hearn

  2. i think this is a perfect time for odom to get back on track. if he can find the spots in the offense for him to drive and create scoring chances the lakers should make the playoffs. i agree with you kurt about smush on defense tonite, but also keep an eye on kobe and his off the ball defense, last game dixon/patterson lit him up. glad that bynum is gonna get more pt, for all the talk that phil cant coach rookies, i like what he has done with socks

  3. No, part of putting Grant in the amnesty program was you keep the contract, it just doesn’t count against the luxury tax.

  4. I agree with you Kurt about starting Cook, and bringing Kwame in off the bench. I think kwame performs better when he feels he has to work his way back into the rotation, I guess he just has to be motivated this way…sad but true.
    And, I also agree we need to see Smush play both ends of the floor with more consistency, agressive play on both ends, and not look to the ref to bail him out of he makes a mistake, (a tendency he has).
    Of course we are all waiting to see if the trade deadline brings us any help for the stretch drive. I for one and hoping to see a veteran point guard, (not not Derek Anderson, sorry) and not Franchise for odum either. I mentioned this the other day, and P Henry disagreed, but I think someone like Jamal Crawford could be plucked for cheap, (NY looking to reduce salary) or someone with good leadership qualities. I think Smush would be better off right now coming off the bench, bringing high energy, rather than starting and trying to pace himself to go the distance.

  5. I agree DEFENSE is the key to success and needs to be emphasized. I also expect to see them play more as unit and build some sort of real team play. With Grant we saved luxury money… but obviously since we waived him we won’t have a 13-14 million ending contract to offer on the market. Smush would be great coming off the bench if we could get a better guard before the deadline, I feel his intensity on the defensive end decreased as his minutes on the floor increased. Kurt could you check those stats? I feel when we still had Laron and kept Smush around 30-33 minutes he looked more effective on the defensive end. Even if he’s young and very atlethic he probably can’t sustain the effort especially from a concentration standpoint. Or maybe the issue here is a little more rest makes him more reactive especially when He knew he was only going to play 30 minutes and had no need to pace himself and save his energy for a full game. Starting Cook seems to be the best move as Kwame and Chris are not 100% and struggle to play together cause none of them has the range to play effectively the PF spot nailing some long range open jumpers. And rembember the team played the best basketball with Cook as a starter in december, even the bench quality might improve with Brown getting in for Chris mainly for defensive purposes. Just hope the offense we get from Cook is more the the defense we lose having less Kwame on the floor. Anyway for this team to be successful we need everybody to be and stay healthy.