Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

Darius Soriano —  November 7, 2010

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Records: Lakers 6-0, Trailblazers 5-2
Offensive ratings: Lakers 116.7 (1st in NBA), Trailblazers 110.3 (4th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (13th in NBA), Trailblazers 103.5 (9th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Trailblazers: Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum (out); Trailblazers: Greg Oden (out), Joel Pryzbilla (out), Rudy Fernandez (questionable)

Talking Defense: An undefeated start after six games is exactly what any fan could hope for when cheering on their team.  And that’s we’re looking at with this Lakers group.  So, no worries right?  Not so fast.

The Lakers defense, while not awful, is underachieving.  Even without Andrew Bynum in the line up, this group is giving up too many points inside and is not controlling their defensive glass.  Obviously some of this will be remedied with a healthy Bynum patrolling the paint, but not all of it.  A lot of what the Lakers are giving up in terms of both points in the paint and offensive rebounds is due to too easy penetration by opposing guards and wings, not because big men are beasting Pau and Lamar underneath the hoop.  Against the Raptors, the defensive breakdowns were all perimeter based.  And it wasn’t just Fisher that was giving up driving lanes against Calderon and Jack, but it was Kobe and Artest that were a step slow on D and trying to gamble for steals to compensate for being beat.  And while some of those reach-ins resulted in steals, many led to easy driving lanes for DeRozan and Kleiza.  Driving lanes that led to 58 points in the paint and 19 offensive rebounds because the Lakers bigs were late rotating to drivers and and when there weren’t late, they surrendered their rebounding position.

Again, these problems can be helped by Bynum’s return.  There will be a domino effect of having ‘Drew back.  But, Bynum won’t be guarding opposing wings and can do little to help his perimeter mates from getting beat off the bounce.  If the Lakers are going to jump in defensive efficiency and get back to the level they showed last season, the guys on the perimeter are going to have to step up and not just rely on Bynum to clean up for them when he returns.

The Trailblazers Coming in: Portland is 5-2, splitting their last 4 games despite still not having all their big man depth at their disposal.  Oden is still not ready to play after having off-season knee surgery and Pryzbilla is slated to return around the same time that Bynum will for the Lakers.  But the guys that the ‘Blazers do have available are, you know, still pretty good.  Brandon Roy is back healthy after last year’s meniscus tear and he’s again doing damage as one of the premier SG’s in the league.  He’s leading them in scoring with 22 a game while still rebounding and distributing to teammates effectively. His shooting percentages are down, but after only 7 games I don’t think this is a long term concern.  Andre Miller is still going strong, averaging 12 points and 9 assists a game as one of the best post up guards in the league that is an underrated playmaker.  Combine that back court with a front court that has LaMarcus Aldridge’s ability to score both inside and out, Camby’s skill as a defender/rebounder, and Nic Batum’s emerging offensive game to go with his already stellar defensive game and you have the makings of a very strong team.

The Blazers’ reserves are more of a mixed bag.  Their big off-season move was signing Wes Matthews from the Jazz as a combo guard that can play effectively with Brandon Roy or Andre Miller.  Matthews brings his blue collar style to Portland and is averaging double digit points in his 22 minutes a night.  Then there’s Rudy Fernandez whose off-season trade demands dominated the dialogue surrounding him, but maybe we should really be focussing on how his game is in decline.  So far this year, he’s playing 7 less minutes a game than he was as a rookie and his scoring output has been cut in half since his first season (and is down 3 points from last year).  Obviously he’s a talented player, but the struggles with his game that he showed in the World Championships with Spain have seemed to carry over to the start of the NBA season.  As for the reserve big men, Donte Cunningham leads the way as the top minute getter (18 a game) and the Blazers just signed Sean Marks off the street to replace Fabricio Oberto who up and retired earlier this week.  I think that’s all you really need to know about a group that can’t wait until Oden and Pryzbilla get back to provide solid depth.

Trailblazers Blogs: Portland Roundball Society has you covered.  If you want more, check out Dave and Ben running the always great Blazers Edge.

Keys to game: I’ve always enjoyed it when the Lakers face the Blazers because they’re two teams that are built quite similarly.  Both offenses revolve around dynamic shooting guards that are both high performers in the clutch and are buoyed in the post by rangy power forwards that can score both inside and out.  The complimentary parts are also similar as the PG’s are veteran leaders and the SF’s are defensive aces that can be real difference makers on offense when their shots are falling.  Obviously, (besides the Blazers distinct advantage at PG) the Lakers are better at each of these positions, but there’s a reason the Blazers give the Lakers such a tough game nearly every time they meet.

So, with such similarities in the teams, the individual match ups will be an interesting watch because there will actually be a fair amount of cross matching going on.  Kobe and Roy likely won’t guard each other much, instead they’ll shift off to guard the less dangerous wing and allow Batum and Artest to do the dirty work on the defensive end.  And we may even see Phil put Odom on Camby (who operates a lot from the top of the key and short corner along the baseline) while Gasol checks the more offensively capable Aldridge.

Whatever the match ups are, though, the key to slowing the Blazers’ offense is the same.  Roy is their first option and he works a lot in isolation and in P&R’s from the top of the circle.  He’s dangerous going to either hand and uses a great crossover and hesitation dribble to get himself free to take his deadly mid-range jumper.  The Blazer’s will also test Fisher’s defense by puttting him in the P&R or going to straight post ups with Miller trying to back Derek down.  Miller is quite crafty on the block and is good at scoring, drawing fouls, or making the correct pass if/when the double team comes.  Fish will have his hands full tonight and it will be interesting to see if Phil goes to bigger defender at any point in the game to try and combat Miller down low if he has early success.

Aldridge is a big man with range out to 20 feet and is comfortable stepping out at any time to shoot.  He’s very good in pick and pop scenarios and the Lakers hedge and recover D will be put to the test any time Aldridge is the screen man.  Another play to watch for is the high low play between Camby and Aldridge with Camby being passer from the top of the key.  The Blazers do a good job of reversing the ball to Camby at the top who then has the option to shoot his jumper or pass over the top to Aldridge who’s looking to seal his man off the ball reversal.

From a team wide perspective, the key to this game is controlling the glass.  Portland is the best offensive rebounding team in the league.  They effectively use their length to tip balls to themselves and gain extra possessions.  The Lakers will need to keep Camby and Aldridge off the offensive glass if they hope to win tonight.  The other key will be whose pace wins out.  Portland traditionally plays at one of the slower paces in the league and that holds true again this season.  They’re deliberate on offense and really make defenses work by moving the ball around and using the clock by exploring multiple options on any given play.  The Lakers must understand this fact, not get impatient on defense, and play possessions all the way through.  Then, when the Lakers secure the ball, they should push the ball back at the Blazers and see if they can get some easy points in transition.  Pushing the pace will also all the Lakers to test the Blazers questionable depth across the board.

In the end, while this game is early in the season and thus can’t be considered too big, it is another test for the Lakers.  Yes the Warriors and Kings were both over .500 when LA faced them, but they’re more upstart than established power.  Portland is a real threat to not only make the playoffs this year, but they could do some damage once there.  This is the best team the Lakers have played so far and it is a good measuring stick game to see if the early run that the Lakers are on is really sustainable.

Where you can watch: 6:30 start time out west on FSW.  Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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75 responses to Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

  1. This one is for Warren!

  2. Warren! 7-0!

  3. warren, encore!

    maybe the Killer B’s are the difference maker tonight.
    seems like the first line ups might play even, so let’s hope our bench renegades really bring it tonight.
    really lovin Blakes game, and Barnes and Brown aren’t too shabby either.
    also, seems like a good match up for Theo, matching up against Camby at times, both love the shot blocking parts of the game.

  4. This game comes at the perfect time. I am very sure the Lakers will be awake for this one. It is a good tune up game.

    Here’s to Steve Blake making his old team pay!

  5. A couple of quotes hit me from Darius’ post, “not healthy Bynum patrolling the paint” and “not because big men are beasting Pau and Lamar underneath the hoop”, as he refers to the points in the paint that the Lakers have been giving up. Penetration and controlling it is the key as I see it also, so lets see what happens tonight. I would like a healthy Bynum patrolling the paint, and no other bigs to ever beast ours though.

    Go Lakers . . .

  6. WHOA WHOA that 1st post thing is still active?

    Here’s to 7-0 and cheering for OKC 😀

  7. Finally, the first “legit” test of the season, let’s see how LA plays this.

  8. Predictions on Caracter’s minutes tonight? Does Phil really intend on giving the kid some serious burn or is he just messing with him?

  9. Am I missing something? Why hasn’t the game started yet?

    Never mind, I just realized DST ended.

  10. I think we should definitely get rid of the “killer b’s” nickname. It’s copied from the Houston Astros of Biggio/Berkman/Bell/Bagwell.

    Also, i think our rebounding issues with be solved with time.

    1. Kobe isn’t doing well moving on defense and every time he gets beat our bigs rotate over and lose rebounding position. With time, his knee will start to feel better and this problem SHOULD go away.

    2. The obvious one. When Bynum comes back Ratliff will hardly play. While he does block shots, he goes for them way too much and leaves rebounding position.

    I’m glad that what seems like our biggest problem now should solve itself with time and shouldn’t be an issue in a month or so.

  11. anyone know where the game is streaming? thank you!

  12. thank you darius!!!!!

  13. Wow, Gasol’s minutes are averaging just a little over 38 a game so far this year, I am glad he took the summer off.

  14. Just thinking out loud hear, but have Pau & Lamar had the best start to the season of any frontcourt in the league?

  15. Caracter off the bench before Theo! this might be one of Phil’s matchup thingys, but a guy can hope, can’t he?!

  16. The energy has been great, couldn’t ask for more.

  17. Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls-

    We have a defense sighting! Good to see Lakeshow…now keep it up.

  18. Some all-around impressive play. Gasol is making it look effortless

  19. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into Toronto, but more or less turns into Sacramento or something.

    Although I don’t think Roy is going to go scoreless much longer 😉

  20. early minutes for Caracter…

  21. Very good first quarter… Not many mistakes combined with good defense got the job done so far

    Pau is abusing Lamarcus Aldridge. Glad to see Caracter in there.

    Btw, people over at Blazersedge are fiercely debating whether Roy is better than Kobe… 🙂

    That’s why a W over Blazers always has an extra special taste

  22. Wow, Pau with 8-6-5 in the first minute of the 2nd quarter. Just so silky smooth at the moment.

  23. This Pau Gasol fella is pretty good.

  24. Oh, Shannon Brown, you filthy filthy man…

  25. ShanWOW, he needs more minutes this year to match his more improved game.

  26. Pau is ridiculous right now! This team is about as locked in as I’ve seen them.

    Anyone else love how quickly Barnes catches and gets the ball up in the lane? Awesome

  27. Pau Gasol is having a very good game

  28. Gasol on his way to a triple double already!

    I thought of the nickname ‘The Bouncers’ for the bench.

    1. A play on most of their surnames starting with ‘B’.
    2. Majority of them have ‘bounced’ around the league.
    3. They’re enforcers for the first team. Given that their primary job is to defend the team’s lead, they’re the ‘bouncers’ who ensure that things are in order.

  29. I love that Phil is playing caracter with pau rather than with odom or theo. he looks pretty good out there tonight

  30. i smell a triple double for Pau. would be nice if he can get one before the half ends. wouldn’t that be something!

  31. Do we keep airball stats? I’m pretty much sure we’ve forced at least one airball every game. 😉

  32. Pau is just jealous of the triple-dub that Kobe got Wednesday night 🙂

  33. Barnes does a lot of little things that really show up on a good team like this.

  34. Ron has the ugliest post game in the NBA, but it works since he is so freaking strong.

  35. Am I spoiled for getting upset when our starters let the lead slip under 20?

  36. Tru Warier has Roy in his back pocket tonight.

  37. 35. I agree on Ron’s inside game. Sometimes it even looks like he does not know what he is doing and “gets lucky” when the ball goes in the basket

  38. Beautiful flop by Fisher there

  39. Joel Meyers’ sarcasm is so dry and annoying.

  40. The Lakers are really into this game on both sides of the ball. They’re swarming on defense and spacing/making shots on offense. When they’re this dialed in, they’re oh so dangerous.

    At the half, the Lakers offensive efficiency is 126.1 and the Blazers are at 78.3. They’re out rebounding the Blazers by 14 and have 7 offensive rebounds to the Blazers 10 defensive rebounds. Uh, yeah, when those are the numbers the Lakers are going to dominate.

  41. Not a good way to start the half, I say.

    Never mind, we woke up.

  42. Still can’t get over Aaron’s comments from 3 threads ago… I suppose Nash and Kidd are taking HGH too 😀

  43. There’s the triple-double.

    Fantastic play.

  44. Triple Double for Pau Gasol

  45. Everything is working for the Lakers tonight, all the rolls and bounces are just going our way, that is what you get when you work hard though.

  46. I love how the Lakers have started the season. Sure, not many of these teams are contenders (or even playoff-bound), but these would have been the same teams that crept back into the game against the Lakers last year.

  47. Kobe is a bit off, but Lamar and Pau more than make up for that tonight.

    Artest and Fisher both with surprising 1 attempt from the 3 each.

    … and Odom with none.

  48. Kobe’s going to get his from the line tonight it seems – that’s if he even plays 5 more minutes…

    Can we chalk up Fish’s nice start to the season to the extra rest that Blake provides, along with the pressure of knowing that there’s a PG with triangle abilities right behind him?

  49. I would love to see Phil put on the entire bench for the 4th.

    Blake, Barnes, Ebanks, Caracter, Ratliff.

    If for nothing else than as an experiment.

  50. Lakers are on their A- game tonight. Not quite A+ because Kobe is having an off night. Definetly their best game of the season.

  51. I just read Aaron’s remarks on Fish’s possible PED use and have come to the conclusion that Aaron is a certain prominent conspiracy theorist in disguise. I’m just waiting for him to call Fish a Islamomarxsocialcommie to confirm my suspicions.

    Ps. The Lakers look so damn good right now.

  52. Has Barnes hit a jumper all year? I’m not being sarcastic, I’m actually curious because I can’t think of one.

  53. This is just rediculously good basketball. Enjoying every second of it.

    Tyler – He did hit a couple of 3s a few games back. He’s definitely struggled with the mid-range so far this season though.

  54. To think that this team struggled mightily against Toronto.


  55. We dont need Barnes to be a great shooter, as long as he keeps making the hustle plays

  56. LA starting 10-0 and accomplishing a Phil fast start is beginning to look attainable. With Minn, at Denver, Phoenix the next three games I have high hopes. Tonight is definitely a good night for all in LA. Kobe laughing on the bench game in hand with 10 min left, Pau triple double, now if Theo could only come in and score 10 straight points.

  57. Haha, 4 percent think Sasha will contribute the most off the bench…funny

  58. 20/20 Streak for Kobe/Gasol ends, unfortunately.

    Maybe we’ll start a new one with Lamar and Gasol going 20/10?

  59. This was the first time we got to see LO play the 5. While the match-up worked well because the Blazers are missing so much size, I think it worked well. I’m not sure how much we’ll see it the rest of the way, but it was good to see we still played well during those few minutes.

    Didn’t see this game coming, but getting closer to PJ’s definition of a “fast start.” Shannon is playing very, very well, and as can be said for 6 of the 7 games this year, LO is doing the “good LO” consistently. We’ve already seen multiple 4th qtr ice-on-starters-knees. Let’s keep it coming.

  60. A Sasha sighting….

  61. Thank you Luke for organizing the offense. No more jacking up shots with 18 seconds on the shot clock.

    Sasha wants to prove he belongs so badly he’s taking any shot he can get.

    He’s like a dog in heat.

  62. And even a Sasha jumpshot…

    Barnes with 10-5-3 is just gravy. The guy just gets it done. I was 50-50 on the signing in the offseason, but in 7 games he’s won me over.

  63. Yowzers! I missed the game completely, but was just telling a friend of mine that this may be the best Laker team assembled from 1-12 (ok, 1-14) that I’ve seen.

    Kobe shoots 3-11 and the Lakes pull out a 20+ point win? Yeah!!!! I need to catch up on some hoops.

  64. Isn’t Barnes getting better stats as a bench player of the Lakers than he is as a starter elsewhere? His stats are actually starter-esque. At least they’re better than a guy named Kobe on our team.

    And Sasha finally got some burn. Caracter with 16 minutes isn’t bad either, though I feel for Ebanks as this would’ve been a game where he could’ve played at least 5 minutes in.

  65. Ha, ha! Dog in heat.

    That describes Sasha perfectly!

  66. the Lakers are CRUISING! like a well oiled locomotive! beautiful to watch!

  67. On a night chock full of positives, it was nice to see Luke out there and moving well and Caracter gaining solid experience and confidence. Oh, and that triple-dub for Pau!

  68. When Sasha shoots 3-5, and your the other team, you know you had a tough game…lol

  69. No Bynum, Kobe had a bad game, and we still blew them out. This team is awesome!

  70. Ratliff and Walton the only non-scorers (no real surprise there); everyone else had at least five(5).

  71. this was one of the best all-around games i’ve seen the lakers play in the last decade. they really did whatever they wanted to on both sides of the ball. in particular, their ball movement/passing/cutting was absolutely breathtaking.

    i raise my glass to you, tex….

  72. i’m impressed with how intelligently the lakers exploited certain match-ups, most notably artest-on-roy.

    i’m glad derrick caracter is getting minutes. I feel he’s adjusting to how athletic the competition is at this level. I get the feeling that he’s trying to add a bit more trajectory on his shots down low, something he wouldn’t have needed to do at the collegiate level.

    the chemistry is outstanding, which is surprising given the number of new faces on the bench.

    i had my doubts about barnes, but he’s done a wonderful job of being a dynamic rebounder, while at the same time allowing the offense to come to him instead of trying to do too much.

    in fact, you could say that about the bench. there’s not really an alpha male out there trying to take command of the game, thank goodness. everybody seems to have a clearly define niche and they’re competently asserting themselves as role-players.

  73. The team looked killer…people are crying in my city (Portland) tonight. Haha.

    I’ll be trash talking a couple of Blazer fans at my next band practice.

    I love this team!