Preview & Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

Kurt —  January 8, 2010

[picappgallerysingle id=”2336236″]
Records: Lakers 28-7 (1st in West) Blazers 22-15 (6th in West)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.2 (12th in league), Blazers 109.7 (8th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 100.8 (2nd in league) Blazers 106 (14th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Blazers: Andre Miller or ??, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge, Juwan Howard

Lakers Tonight: Pau Gasol had a pain free practice, but he is still not suiting up tonight. Luke Walton also is not playing tonight. I’d complain about the injuries, but that is bad Karma with everything the Blazers have been through this year.

But those are two of the best passers the Lakers have, and missing them was part of the ugly, pick-and-roll loving offense the Lakers played against the Clippers (particularly in the second half). The Lakers when they get a little tired (like in the second game of a back-to-back) and a little lazy they stop running the offense. It becomes the ball in the post or pick and rolls — all things that are in the triangle offense, but the Lakers don’t run them within that context. They revert to 1990s basketball. Kobe reverts to the “my teammates aren’t doing it so I must do more” mode that isn’t a good fit with this roster.

Phil likes to let his teams learn lessons. If it’s the hard way, so be it. We will see going forward, through a tough rest of the month with a lot of road games, if the Lakers learned a lesson about running the offense. Or if they need to be taught again.

The Blazers Coming In: I’m afraid I’m going to blow out my wrist just writing about this team. Not suiting up for the Blazers tonight are Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla, basically their entire front line size, as well as Steve Blake, Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez. On top of all that, guard Andre Miller is a game-time decision (hence the guess on starting lineups at the top).

Despite that, the Blazers are 6-4 in their last 10. And that is largely due to Brandon Roy, as Darius details.

It would be tough to find many players playing better than Brandon Roy right now. Whether it’s the removal of Oden from the low block or him finally finding his comfort zone playing next to Miller, Roy has been tremendous lately. He’s scoring well, doing it efficiently, and he’s getting his teammates involved. In the past, I’ve noted that SG is one of the weaker positions in the league and that often allows Kobe to play his roaming/free safety style of defense. Tonight is not one of those nights. He’ll need to be dialed in tonight. The good thing is that Artest is also familiar with Roy (see the Houston/Portland series from the playoffs last season) so he should be able to provide Kobe a bit of a reprieve on D in certain spots tonight.

Another player to watch is Jerryd Bayless. He is the exact type of player that gives the Lakers problems and he’s getting more burn this year as the Blazers have cleared out some of the players that created a clogged backcourt while also recognizing that this kid can play. Plus, as Bayless himself mentioned a couple of weeks ago, he really is a good compliment to Roy as he’s more of a SG in a PG’s body just like Roy is a ball dominating SG that loves to set up his teammates. Bayless compared himself to Mo Williams with Roy playing the Lebron role and that isn’t too far from being the truth (though Bayless is not yet at Williams overall level). It will be interesting if Phil goes with a Farmar/Bayless matchup or if he thinks that Brown’s bigger body can keep Jerryd out of the lane better while using size to contest his jumper.

It will be interesting to see if there are any after effects from the Andre Miller/Nate McMillan argument at practice yesterday, or if the two old vets can let it go.

Blazers blogs, and a note: Dave and the guys at Blazers Edge have one of the best team blogs out on the Web. It is a must read. Also, there is the new Portland Roundball Society, which has some great writers on board and is a blog to watch.

In news that made me sad, the Cavaliers waived Coby Karl.

Keys to game: There are no such things as easy wins at the Rose Garden. I have never been to the building, but I picture a place where the toilets flush red with blood, there are swarms of flies about and if you walk in wearing a Lakers jersey a demonic voice screams “Get Out!”

The Blazers that are healthy will give the Lakers fits. They are going to run a lot of high screen-and-roll with Roy handling the ball and Aldridge as the screen – this is hard to defend because Roy is patient and can drive or shoot with accuracy, and because Aldridge has to be respected for his midrange game (41% from 16 to 23 feet). He loves the jump shot — if they set him up in the post he often uses a turnaround jumper to score. Odom needs to do a good job putting a body on him, using his length to disrupt shots and showing out on the pick-and-roll but recovering quickly and not losing his man or his focus.

The Lakers guards need to stay with Bayless, he loves the midrange game as well (and can shoot the three), which makes him hard to stop on the drive. Stopping penetration will take good play from Bynum as well, he has to protect the rim and not just surrender layups.

Darius taps into one Lakers advantage:

One area where we should do very well is on the glass – both offensive and defensive. With both Oden and Pryzbilla out, Portland’s only reliable size is LaMarcus and he’s not the best rebounding PF around. I think this can be a night where we control the defensive glass and run out to get early offense.

The Blazers play at the slowest pace in the league, this is not a running team (despite the athletes who could run). The Lakers need to crash the boards then get out and run, picking up some easy buckets in transition. Now, back to Darius.

I also think it’s a night where, if we’re actually trying to execute our offense and not going into too many isolations and P&R’s, that we’ll also be able to feast on the offensive glass with LO, Bynum, and Artest. I think Ron may actually get more than a couple of put backs as Webster (an underrated defender, mind you) will start out on him but with Outlaw missing, he’ll likely also see some Roy on him at SF when the Blazers go to a smaller lineup. This is where Ron’s strength can serve the dual purpose of working the offensive glass but also wearing down the Blazer’s best player

Where you can watch: 7 p.m. start on KCAL 9 here in Los Angeles, and of course ESPN 710 radio.