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.