Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

Darius Soriano —  March 20, 2011

Records: Lakers 49-20 (2nd in West), Trailblazers 40-29 (6th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.7 (2nd in NBA), Trailblazers 108.6 (11th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.5 (7th in NBA), Trailblazers 107.0 (14th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Trailblazers: Andre Miller, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff & Devin Ebanks (out); Trailblazers: Greg Oden & Elliot Williams (out)

The Lakers Coming in: The wins have been piling up, but that’s not really today’s news. This morning we learned that Andrew Bynum will be suspended two games for his flagrant foul on Michael Beasley, meaning he’ll be out for tonight’s game vs. Portland and Tuesday’s contest vs. the Suns. And while the two games is a bit excessive (I think the league’s ruling is indicative of Beasley’s hard fall and not necessarily the foul itself), this is what can happen when you shoulder shiver a player in mid-air and it results in him taking a horrendous fall where he can’t return to the game. I’ve said it already: Bynum’s aggression is a good thing, him not making a play on the ball and committing a reckless, dangerous foul is not. He deserved to be suspended and now he and his team suffer for him making said play.

All that said, I hope Bynum learns from this. I hope he learns that he must play big, but must also play smart. That he can give a hard foul, but must do so within the context of playing the game not with a frustrated shove that’s a danger to other players and to his own team. Because with Bynum’s embracing of his new role as a defensive anchor comes a greater responsibility to actually be there for his team. He’s no longer an extra piece to the puzzle but a main part in which his absence can make all the difference. So as he sits and watches his team in these next two games, I hope he examines all of this and comes back as focused and ready to play as ever. Odds are, he’ll see how much his team needs him.

The Trailblazers Coming in: There may not be a team playing better that is so under the radar right now. Portland is 7-3 in their last 10 games but have wins over some really strong opponents. Miami, Dallas, Orlando, and a Philly team that’s been playing great ball have all fallen to Portland this month. They’re slowly getting healthy with the return of Marcus Camby and Brando Roy and seem to be adjusting quite nicely to the acquisition of Gerald Wallace they made at the trade deadline. With Wallace now a fixture in the starting lineup and Aldridge moving over to center (along with Roy and Camby providing good support off the bench), the Blazers now have a lot more talent at their disposal and it’s showing each night. They’re able to throw diverse lineups at teams where they begin games relatively small with their starting group, but can then go big (Miller, Roy, Wallace, Aldridge, Camby) or a mixture of both styles (with Rudy Fernandez and Patty Mills thrown into either back court positions) and match up with nearly any lineup their opposition throws at them. This is now a team that will be an extremely tough out in the playoffs – regardless of seeding – and teams would be wise to try and avoid them in the first round this year.

Trailblazers Blogs: Portland Roundball Society does a very good job covering the Blazers. You can also check out the always excellent Blazers Edge for great insight on this team.

Keys to game: As noted above, Portland will go small tonight and with the absence of Bynum they may just get away with it. Mike Trudell has tweeted that the Lakers will start out cross matching with Artest guarding Gerald Wallace and Odom’s assignment a bit less clear. If this does indeed happen, I could imagine Odom guarding Andre Miller in order to neutralize the PG’s excellent post game while Kobe guards Batum and Fisher chases Wesley Matthews around screens and around the perimeter. The Odom/Miller match up is one that LA went to last year when Kobe missed a game in Portland (a game LA won) and LO did a very good job laying off Miller on the perimeter and then bothering him any time he went into the paint. I hope to see some of this same tactic tonight.

As for the rest of the defense, the major key is slowing LaMarcus Aldridge. Pau will certain have his hands full tonight as LMA tries to get position on the left block to go to work with his soft turn around jumper or attempt to drive hard to the middle with his strong hand. Pau likely won’t get much help on D tonight as Portland boasts enough shooters and slashers to make helping defenses pay, so he’ll need to be strong in keeping Aldridge off his spots and smart in how he guides him around the court so he can effectively challenge his shot. Remember too that Pau will be playing without a safety net tonight since Bynum won’t dress, so that means foul trouble will need to be avoided and his rebounding work will need to be at peak level. Portland is too good an offensive rebounding team for Pau to be in single digits tonight. Obviously, Odom too will need to be at his best on the glass and if he’s on a Miller (as I hope/expect) he should be able to effectively leave his man when the shot goes up and go after every loose ball that comes off the rim.

Offensively the Lakers will need top shelf performances from all their main threats. The last time these two teams met, Kobe had a great game in going for 37 points and Gasol black swan’d his way to 18 points, with several coming on strong fourth quarter/overtime finishes against Aldridge. Artest also had a very good shooting game when he poured in 24 on only 13 shots, making countless big jumpers throughout the entire contest to keep the game close when his mates were struggling. With Bynum out, these guys will need to again show up tonight and be effective on O to make up for the fact that Big Drew won’t be around to clean up on the offensive glass and earn extra possessions when shots don’t fall.

I’d love to see Pau get going early and take Aldridge to the mid post where he can go back to work with his mid-range jumper or attack off the dribble. Aldridge has improved as a defender but Pau has more than enough skill to go at him and get buckets at the rim and on the wing when given space. As for Kobe, after the T’Wolves game he vowed to be “more than ready” for this contest so we’ll see if he’s able to deliver. He’ll likely be matched up with Matthews, a player that Kobe’s been able to score on in the past by using his height advantage in the post. This is where Bynum being out can actually aid the Lakers as now Kobe will move out of the two guard front and into the post more where he can isolate at the elbow on the weak side and in the hub of the Triangle after players clear through the lane when executing their ball side cuts. If Kobe can make some short jumpers early, he’ll influence the D and potentially force help that will only open up the offense of Odom, Artest, and Fisher when they spot up and slash on the weak side of the formation.

One last  thing to watch for is the pace of the game. Portland likes to play at a slow pace but in the last match up they tried to push the ball only to run out of steam late. The Lakers were able to manage their quick start effectively enough but ultimately wore them down late with strong post play and by using their size advantage. Tonight, the tables may turn as the Lakers are the team that has the horses to run the floor more tonight. With LO a starter and Barnes back (or at least close) to full strength, the Lakers could do themselves a favor by getting into the open court more and looking to get baskets in early offense. Pau can run with Aldridge and Odom should be able to clear the glass and push the ball too. If Kobe’s ankle looks as good as it did in the 2nd half of the ‘Wolves game, he too should be able to do a bit more work in early offensive sets, especially in early post actions where the back line D isn’t quite set.

In the end, this game is very much important for both teams. Portland has slew of tough games ahead of them and tonight gives them a chance to face off against a Bynum-less Laker group and earn a win that can give them even more confidence for this final stretch before the playoffs. Meanwhile the Lakers need to continue to build on their post all-star run and stay ahead of Dallas in the loss column for the #2 seed. Neither team wants to take a step back tonight and that means we should have a good one on our hands.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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67 responses to Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

  1. we know portland loves to crash the offensive boards, so there will be opportunities for guys like steve to push the ball and for guys like shannon and matt to score transition baskets.

    the lakers don’t need to go all showtime, either. push the ball, create mismatches, run early offense, force opponents to help, hit the open man, and anticipate offensive rebounds.

    for the bench to be the effective up-tempo unit they’re supposed to be, we need our bigs to rebound misses and deny 2nd chance point opportunities.

  2. Bynum got what was warrented based on the league’s guidelines for reviewing suspensions on flagrant fouls. I just wish they were more consistent on applying the standards.

    As for tonight, Pau is the key, both offensively and defensively. If comes out and plays effecient offensively and can do a solid job slowing down Aldridge when they’re matched up, I like the Lakers chances. Overall, I’m pretty sure the Lakers will be a bit fired and upset over Bynum’s suspension so I don’t see a lack of energy being a problem for them.

    Very curious to see how much bounce Kobe has.

  3. @2. Yes, the flagrant by Dampier that got him ejected comes to mind. No suspension was handed out on the play where he shoved a guard from behind on a fast break, pushing him into the baseline cameras. I was hoping Drew would only get one game for this, but since he got two, you have to wonder why a player on ESPN’s team didn’t even get one on what was arguably an equally dangerous play.

  4. I think it mattered alot to the league that:

    A) Beasely was pretty banged up on the play and left the game, never to return, a few minutes later.

    B) Bynum was probably acting in an emotional reaction to his frustration / non calls that he felt should have gone his way. NBA is not so fond of players taking their emotions out on their peers and maybe sending a message here.

    But yes, the way the lack of consistency in handing out punishiments by the NBA is perpetually infuriating.

  5. I know this is off topic but I was wondering if anyone knew any recent news about Ratliff? Is there any chance that he will play this season and if not does insurance cover his salary allowing the Lakers to pick up an emergency situation center for the playoffs?

  6. ratliff, last i heard, is supposed to test his knee out soon, and see if he can contribute.

    if it doesn’t work out, there’s drew naymick. he was cut by the lakers but plays for their d-league affiliate.

    then there’s shotblocking specialist and perennial problem child sean williams. he seems to have turned over a new leaf. he’d be a sensible pickup.

  7. Excellent comparison to that Dampier foul. As has been said by others, I don’t think anyone thought Drew was NOT going to be suspended, but a bit of consitency in the application of suspensions would be nice.

  8. Bynum “deserves” one game at the absolute most. You can’t throw the legal rulebook at one situation when it’s not applied to dozens of other worse infractions. Also, Drew turned with Beasley, lessening the impact tenfold. If someone Bynum’s size and strength really wanted to hurt someone like Beasely in mid air, Michael would be in a coma right now.

    LA being a high-profile team, Beasley’s acting, and slow motion instant replay made this whole thing far worse than it really is.

    One game, max.

    The worst part of this is that it’s going to really tame Bynum down since I’m sure he’s going to get a few mandatory lectures and the refs will be paying extra attention to him now. As if he isn’t foul-prone enough.


  9. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett can get away with smacking guys in the nuts and that’s all good.

    Because cheap shots to the nuts away from a play are clearly a part of basketball, far more so than a hard foul on a guy who’s going to the rim.

  10. Chris J – It’s because plays like that by Celtics players are “tough”, whereas whenever a Laker gives a hard foul, it’s “trying to shake the tag of being soft”.

    Goes with the territory I suppose.

  11. Kudos to Jordan Farmar today. Got the start and 17 assists. Too bad the victory eluded him and the Nets

  12. Anybody have a link for tonight?

  13. The Warriors certainly aren’t helping us today! Dallas is grinding them into the dirt.

  14. blazer offense looks so much better when it isn’t being run through brandon roy.

  15. ShanWOW, with the two handed DUNK!

  16. anyone have a live feed?

  17. Is anyone else watching on NBA league pass?

    Why do they let these Portland announcers in staples center? I can’t stand them anymore

  18. Disappointing 2nd quarter so far. Just not getting stops.

  19. you can really tell the differene in interior D when ‘Drew aint there

  20. A Joe Smith sighting. Oh man, a 10-0 run by the Blazers.

  21. Well, that was unpleasant. Hope that we get things together and have a big 3rd to get a nice, relaxed final quarter.

  22. some more agressive defense and rebounding would help

  23. So it looks like tonight, Buffoon is the stiff on the other team that we’re turning into an all-star. Nice.

  24. The lakers are frustrating. The get a 6 or 7 point lead and they literally start standing around like the game is over. The second unit did it at the being of the second quarter and the starters did it at the end of the second quarter. Bynum is the only laker committed to defense throughout the entire game and thats why the lakers were outscored by 11 points this quarter.

  25. @22 yeah, the guy kobe is guarding has a career night by half time. i’m shocked (not)

  26. #26. Actually, Ron’s been the primary defender on Batum as Kobe was on Miller and LO was on Wallace when all those guys shared the court. Granted, many others had chances to cover Batum (including Kobe) but the rotations have been late by everyone. But Ron has been over helping a bit more than normal.

  27. Where did Shannon Brown come up with this thing where he just ducks his head and runs past the guy instead of contesting the shot? Bizarre. I’d almost prefer him to take the Kobe approach and just walk away.

  28. i know kobe is not playing well but a few calls here or there.. jeez

  29. I don’t quite understand why phil opted to go for shannon over blake. Especially because the lakers need someone to get them into their offense. I would also like to see blake on Miller because Kobe is doing a terrible job.

  30. Lamar’s playing a pretty nice game, but we sure are missing that anchor in the middle on D. It really magnifies any mistakes on the perimeter when we don’t have Drew in there changing shots and grabbing boards.

  31. Man… It still amazes me how many different things Odom can do. Some of the passes he’s completing tonight are ridiculous.

  32. Did that reporter just say “with Chuck Pearsons”? smh

  33. does Phil run drills against a zone?

  34. LOL @ Stu: Fernandez not knowing “how stupid that looks.”

  35. Of course we’re trailing to Gerald Wallace’s team. When’s the last time we beat them?

  36. The lakers defense flat out sucks. Its terrible. All they do is switch everybody. They switch centers on point guards. The lakers have flat out ran away from the ball handler twice. There was a play where lamar left his man alone under the basket to run out on a 3 point shooter. Its games like these last 2 where it seems they’ve never played organized basketball. If the just commit to doing the fundamentals on both ends of the court they’ll win. But they’re just being lazy on the defensive and just looking for home run plays on the offensive end.

  37. lamar is keeping us in the game. kobe is killing us.

  38. Is anyone but Lamar going to show up?

  39. i find it interesting that in my opinon the lakers are far more motivated and play so much better on the road, i guess they just like a challange

  40. Great teat for the Lakers. Can they win a game against a good team without their best player.

  41. Aaron, why do you troll?

  42. gotta take the good with the bad with kobe. and Fish is prepping for the Playoffs !!!!!!!!

  43. Fish Break!

  44. Kobe & Fish getting things done when they need to. It would’ve been nice to see some of this intensity a little earlier in the game!

  45. James, I was thinking the exact same thing.

    Also, in my opinion, I think it’s our offense that has sucked tonight, despite the defensive lapses. Same with the other night against Minn.

    Hopefully, this little offensive surge at the end of this game will be enough…

  46. sorry, change that to trans-fish-ion basket.

  47. And I’ll say this again:

    Fisher and Bryant are the most cold-blooded backcourt combination in the NBA…

    Every single big play in the last 3 minutes, I tell ya.

  48. Kobe is CLUTCH!

  49. Kobe and Fish, WOW.

  50. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.

  51. the two old guys do it again LOL :)

  52. Fish closing solidly!

    Batum has really torn it up today. Combined with the 29 we let Johnson get the other night, the starting SGs from our opposition have been having a good time of late.

  53. if NBA games only lasted the last 3 minutes, Derek Fisher would be a first ballot HOFer

  54. Great finish by the Lakers to win this game

  55. The past few sequences couldn’t have gone any better. Wow

  56. Boy I’ll take this game. The lakers pretty much had everything going against them. They kept going into these 2-3 stretches of terrible defense and offense. But they decided to play right in the last 5 minutes of the game and pulled it out. A new look suns team up next.

  57. As Bad as the Lakers looked, they were actually trying; just no rythm, but they were able to still do some good things defesively to have the T.Blazer score just 80, and finally pull out the W. Great job boys! onto the next one!

  58. Class of ’96 delivers yet another Pacific Division Title…

  59. What a bruising win that was. I am very encouraged to see the Lakers pull that one out, those are exactly the kind of ugly wins that they’ve come up with time and time again en route to titles.

  60. Tonight’s game typified the hunger this team has to get it done. Nothing seemed to be going our way and yet everyone kept battling and effort flowed out of them like sweat out of the pores of Biggie Smalls in a sauna. This wasn’t a pretty game to watch, more akin to Moaning Lisa than the Mona Lisa, but the end result was another “W” at the time of year when that’s all that matters. Kobe’s last 4 minutes were vintage and Fisher showed why he still has Phil’s trust in late game situations. And I would be remiss if I didn’t applaud Lamar for his all around hustle and energy. This game had all the fixings of a loss (Bynum out, no rhythm, calls and loose balls going the Blazers way) and the Lakers still got it done. Great ending to another win.

    Kobe – thank you, thank you, thank you! I appreciate all you have done for this franchise.

  61. happy for the win, and i usually dont complain about officiating (so guess what im going to do now…) can a five time champion, league mvp, finals mvp, get a foul call when he gets hit on the hand, or the arm? i mean cmon, how does ron get only a tech, and not wallace?

    makes no sense.

    happy for the victory, especially against portland

  62. Win ugly, but win…

    The offense wasn’t flowing well tonight, but it came on when it needed to.

    Butum, Johnson… lots of other perimeter guys who’ve gone off on the Lakers this year — they can live with it. I’d much rather see an All-Star like Aldridge have to work extra hard to get his at the expense of an 8 ppg guy erupting for 20. In the end, the Blazers suffered when Batum cooled off; same with WJ and Minnesota the other night. They’ll revert to the mean.