Preview & Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

Kurt —  January 4, 2009

NBA: OCT 28 Trailblazers at Lakers
Records: Lakers 26-5 (1st in the West) Trailblazers 20-13 (7th in the West)

Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.7 (3rd in league) Trailblazers 113.4 (2nd in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.5 (4th in league) Trailblazers 109.5 (23rd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Trailblazers Rudy Fernandez, Blake, Bantum, Aldridge, Oden

Lakers notes: For fun today, from, the win percentages of some common Lakers lineups (basically, how often they outplay the opposing fives on the floor):

Fisher-Bryant-Radmanovic-Gasol-Bynum: 47.1%
Fisher-Bryant-Walton-Gasol-Bynum: 46.1%
Farmar-Vujacic-Ariza-Odom-Bynum: 63.6%
Farmar-Vujacic-Ariza-Odom-Gasol: 52.9%
Fisher-Bryant-Ariza-Odom-Gasol: 70%

Bottom line, the starting fives the Lakers have are basically .500 against the opposing starters, but the key Lakers bench lineups win, and the closing group is very good. This points to a couple other things: How important that Laker depth is during the season and how much it matters who finishes games rather than who starts.

One other quick note: I have read Bynum taking some heat in some Lakers forums for not stepping up, not scoring enough lately. I think Craig W. summed up the Bynum situation well in the comments:

We all want Shaq to arrive this week and Phil wants Bynum to concentrate on defense and let his offense develop gradually. He already signed his contract so he should now do as the coach wants; not as the fans want. The all-star nomination may not arrive when he wants it, but the trophy might just be a good substitute.

The Trailblazers Coming In: Bad news for both the Blazers and all of us fans of good basketball — Brandon Roy is out tonight with a hamstring injury.

But it should be interesting because now Rudy Fernandez gets the start. And, according to Blazer homer Henry Abbott on TrueHoop, this will mean more minutes for Jerryd Bayless, the rookie out of Arizona, which Henry says is a good thing (despite the fact Bayless is shooting 27.4% eFG% and has a PER of 2.3 so far this season).

He said a big question for the Blazers tonight is which LaMarcus Aldridge shows up. For all of you that think Odom can be a mercurial player, he is loved in the locker room. Check out what Ric Bucher wrote about Aldridge in ESPN the Magazine:

BEING A Texan, Aldridge has a particular love of red meat. So it was especially wounding when he thought that Roy had left him out of a trip to a Brazilian barbecue joint in Memphis early last season. So that’s how it is, he thought, and steered clear of Roy everywhere but on the court. It wasn’t until the summer that Travis Outlaw convinced Aldridge that he had simply forgotten to tell him about the dinner. The issue is a memory now, but that kind of response to a perceived slight is what the Blazers work every day to avoid. They can’t afford not to…

Aldridge is shooting 50% from the floor and scoring nearly 20 points a game the last month. The key to stopping him, by the way, is to not let him get hot from the midrange. Easier said than done, if he is on it is very difficult to stop. I personally believe less in streaky shooting than most, but because of the confidence issue with Aldridge, you need to not let him get rolling.

One other thing, you should go read the preview (and basically everything) at Blazers Edge, which is one of my three favorite NBA blogs (even though I have no love for the Blazers).

Previous Meeting: In the first game of the season, the Lakers new aggressive defense overwhelmed the Blazers from the start, and the Lakers looked dominant and they cruised to a 96-76 win. It will be interesting to see how Fernandez and Bayless deal with the defense, now that it is the second time around.

Keys To The Game: Things are pretty straight forward against the Trailblazers — they can score in bunches but do not defend all that well. The Lakers will get their points in this one, how easy the win is depends on how focused they are on defense.

That has to start on the defensive glass — the Trailblazers are the best offensive rebounding team in the league, grabbing 32.9% of their misses. They grab one third of their missed shots, which is a crazy good number. The Lakers are a pretty pedestrian defensive rebounding team, but Bynum and Gasol need to come focused tonight (same with Odom and really the whole team).

Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom have to be focused on defense on Aldridge, he is the one guy who can carry the Blazers if he gets hot. The Lakers have to keep him in check.

Along those same lines, Bynum has to outplay Greg Oden, he tends to get up for the other big centers in the league and he needs to tonight. Also, the Lakers cannot sleep on Joel Przybilla and Travis Outlaw. Particularly Outlaw — in crunch time they will go to him in isolation.

Where you can watch: Fox Sports in LA with a 6:30 tip off. Nationally, League Pass and thee other usual suspects.