Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Trailblazers

Darius Soriano —  December 1, 2013

After going 2-1 on their recent road trip, the Lakers come home to face a surprisingly very good Blazers team. Portland currently boasts a 13-3 record, good for 2nd in the West. So, even though the Lakers are a bit of a feel good story with their 9-8 record to start the year, they’ve got nothing on the Blazers in terms of exceeding expectations with their start.

Portland isn’t a drastically different team from last year, but they have added key players at key positions and seen growth and development from many of their holdovers. In the “new” department, the team added Mo Williams as a back up PG and sometimes backcourt partner to Damian Lillard. They also added Robin Lopez to their front court, giving them a more traditional Center to play next to LaMarcus Aldridge and provide a good presence on the backboards and in the defensive paint. This duo has done a good job of playing to their strengths while bolstering and providing support to a lineup that played too many minutes last season and desperately needed reinforcements.

The Blazers aren’t off to such a great start because of Williams and Lopez, however. They’re playing so well because the foursome of Lillard, Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews are all playing fantastic basketball.

It starts with Aldridge and Lillard who are both playing all-star caliber ball. Aldridge remains one of the better offensive big men in the league, scoring 22 points a night will pulling down nearly 10 rebounds as well. Aldridge still brings his feathery jumper every night and has also done a good job of getting to the post and operating as a P&R partner with Lillard where he can finish either with his J after popping out or going to the rim with his length. Lillard, meanwhile, continued this season where he left off the last, scoring 20 points a night with 6 assists added in. What makes Lilliard so dangerous is his almost unlimited range, evidenced by his nearly 40% mark from behind the arc on almost 7 attempts a game. With Lillard bombing away, he’s able to then get into the paint when defenders pressure him up high and either score himself or pick out teammates for open shots.

Teammates like Batum and Matthews, both of whom are playing some of the best ball of their careers. Batum has turned into the all court threat and two way talent the Blazers thought he would become when they matched the offer sheet he signed with the Wolves last summer. Batum was always a player who flashed his potential frequently, but had too many down nights where his impact was not what it should have been. Those times seem to be gone as the Frenchman is scoring well (15 points a night) while still having an impact on the boards and with assists (nearly 7 rebounds and 5 dimes a night) all while hitting 40% of his threes. Matthews, meanwhile, is having a career season by scoring nearly 17 points a night while hitting 50% of his six attempted three pointers a night. Matthews is also a pesky defender and a solid positional rebounder (nearly 5 boards a night).

When you add all of the above to solid (not great, but solid) role players like Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson, and it’s easy to see why this team is having the success they are. Whether it’s sustainable remains to be seen, but they have some top talent, are well coached, and play a style that perfectly fits their roster.

What this means tonight is that the Lakers are in for a pretty big challenge. Though the game is in Los Angeles, the Blazers offer match up issues in a variety of ways and have a style that can put opponents on their heels. With Aldridge and Lillard, both Hill (and Pau) and Blake will have their hands full defensively. As mentioned above both have very good range on their jumpers and both use that effectiveness to set up their rest of their offensive attack. Aldridge loves the left side of the floor where he can either shoot his spot up jumper or drive hard to the middle where he can either shoot his jumper off the dribble or initiate a post up where his turnaround J can be countered with a jump hook. Whoever defends LMA must crowd his jumper and force him to his left where he has less room to operate and will have a more difficult shot to take.

As for Lillard, slowing him will be a team effort but starts with Steve Blake. Lillard loves to do his work early in possessions by setting up his man with the threat of a speed dribble so he can pull up for a jumper uncontested. Blake, must stay as connected as possible to Lillard and must have the proper support behind him so if he does get beat off the dribble an easy lane to the rim isn’t readily available. The key to this type of D is in whoever guards Lopez as he should be the primary helper. You can’t expect the defenders guarding LMA, Batum, or Matthews to help as those three all shoot to well to help off of one pass away. No, the help must come off Lopez and the rest of the D must be ready to rotate and help the helper when Pau (or Hill, should he guard Lopez) rotate to Lillard.

Offensively, the Lakers need to try to find a way to crack the code of what the Blazers do well on that end. The Lakers rely heavily on the three point shot to fuel their offense, but Portland has allowed the fewest attempts and makes from behind the arc while also allowing the the lowest 3 point field goal percentage. In other words, what the Lakers do best on O, the Blazers do best in stopping. Something will have to have to give on that end for the Lakers to be successful tonight and that will likely have to start with them threatening the paint via dribble penetration, cuts, and post ups.

If there were any night for Pau Gasol to have a big night, this is it. Pau is one of the only Lakers’ players who can score down low without fully adjusting his game. Pau must work to establish position on the block and then move quickly once he makes the catch to force the D into a react position. If Pau can get a few quick baskets, he can then start to kick the ball out and get players open shots out of his post ups.

The Lakers must also threaten the paint via dives and in turning the corner off dribble penetration when running the P&R. This makes the Jordans (Hill and Farmar) just as key as Pau tonight. If Hill can dive into the paint and get some baskets out of the P&R and Farmar can turn the corner and get a few lay ups at the rim, the Blazers will have to rotate and it will open up passing lanes to shooters from behind the arc. The Lakers will then have to hit those jumpers, but that is true every night if they want their offense to function at a high enough level to win.

The first game back from a road trip is often most difficult and considering the Lakers just played on Friday and the fact that it was a holiday on Thursday does them no favors. With a strong opponent looking to bounce back after losing their last game (their first loss in 12 games), the Lakers will need to be sharp on both ends of the floor and decisive in their actions all night long.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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86 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Trailblazers

  1. Hopefully the LA Saturday night fun zone will effect Blazers tonight. Also Neal O former GM from Clips is doing something special with those guys.

  2. We’ll have our hands full tonight with spacing issues defending the Blazers attack. They have weak inside game and very strong spacing one. Lillard can attack however, and Lamarcus always kills teams with his amazing midrange game.

    Go Lakers!

  3. this is a game where Pau will have to bring more energy than usual if we have a chance. must keep the TOs to a minimum. I was surprised to see POR as a 3.5 favorite at Staples, but after reading this preview, I understand.

  4. We have 3 easy games after this – so if we win – the mini roll could go to a total roll

  5. Pau looking good? 0 for 5 and none even close.

  6. A “big” (if there is such a thing this early) game against a good team where the notional leader can step up and help—and Pau starts 0 for 4 with three drifting perimeter shots and a half-hearted hook shot. Nice job Pau. I love the Spaniard, but tonight I hate his body language.

  7. F-ugly game so far.

  8. relax guys, we are getting good shots. We do not get any respect from the refs, nick young was clearly fouled.

  9. Well someone came to play and the other is still out last night.

    Get Pau out of there he can’t even walk right now. and had ankle and wrist injury on Friday.

  10. I´m just glad it´s still very early in the game

  11. Sufian–what was particularly egregious about the no-call on Batum’s swipe at Swaggy was, Batum knows that Young hurt his left hand the other night and basically punched Young in the left (off ball) hand triggering an involuntary reaction by Young. Cheap play that should have been an easy call. Batum wasn’t even slapping at the ball.

  12. Can Lakers win without Farmar?

    Could be a problem if he doesn’t return.

  13. Looks as if Farmar pulled a hamstring. If I’m correct, not good at all.

  14. mindcrime – Absolutely right. Nick is getting them back though.

    People are blaming Pau but it wasn’t his fault. He took good shots and missed them but the spacing was a problem with Jordan Hill.

  15. Tra you’re right. Moderate hamstring strain – not good, those tend to linger. Very bad timing too considering how thin we now are at the PG position and how well Farmar was playing prior to this.

  16. Nash possibly back this week at practice – latest word here north of the border is that he’s feeling much much better after working out w/ his own trainer and specialists in Vancouver. Hopefully that feeling lasts as his practice intensity increases

  17. Kamen is not injured. Trade bait or on MD list? Thought he had been playing good?

  18. Love Sacre’s energy and effort down there battling for rebounds and challenging shots. He’s rotating very well too in help situations. Very impressed.

  19. Started watching the game, was watching the Walking Dead hehe. Well tie game now.

  20. Last year’s team was unquestionably more talented than this one–but does anyone else agree that after getting down 21 to 4 early in the season last year, LAL would have been done and we could all watch the Sunday night NFL game? I realize that talent is the most important predictor of success, but I’m still an “effort” guy and this team brings it.

  21. Kaman is just low man on rotation pole after being out for a while – MDA is just giving hill/williams/sacre etc…. the mins they earned while he is out and Kaman will have to play his way back via practice etc… Not doghouse per say- just the bench guys have earned this so far.

  22. I really like this team. They’re developing to be a scrappy team. Hope that developing curve doesn’t slow down and hopefully increases when kobe comes back. Who knows how good we are after 40-50 games.

  23. Every game somebody step up, thats what people need to understand, this team dont need great games of any player in particular. If Pau is not getting it done somebody else will, tonight is Xaver.

  24. So the Lakers came back from 17 down? There is no quitting on this team!!

  25. This squad is scrappy. Love the fight!

  26. Excellent D transition and then Pau forgets about Sideshow Bob overthere.

  27. Holy molly Pau is just horrible on both ends. He must be injured.

  28. Can we get some more sacre please. We have the soft pau tonight. Getting rebounds snatched from him, not defending the paint at all and not playing in the paint on the offensive end. But everybody is playing hard.

  29. I remember last year the Blazers would had at least 3 transition baskets during those fastbreaks they tried since i start watching, the Lakers have matched their speed every time. We would be losing by 20 last year in a game like this.

  30. Kaman doesn’t need to work his way back into the rotation. there’s some serious BS going on. Pau is laying an egg and the team could use him.

  31. Tonight Pau is the scapegoat i see, he is not scoring but he is setting up other guys nicely. Im ok with that. And Sacre is a scrub, sorry, but is the truth i rather have Kaman out there taking those minutes since he has something Sacre dont have you know, talent, but i think he is in the doghouse for complaining on the press about minutes. Same thing happened with Antwan last season and he was in the doghouse for a while. Kaman will be back in the rotation eventually.

  32. Pau needs to put some pressure on Aldridge and make him play defense. Facing up for jumpers just doesn’t do that. Pau has to force the issue and drive the ball at Aldridge.

  33. Really felt good about the Lakers’ chances in this game until Farmar got injured. He started the comeback when he entered the game. Now, Blake will be forced to play too many minutes.

  34. The Lakers dont play until Friday so there is no reason Blake cant play the entire second half.

  35. Hard to win with Pau 2 for 13 and zip for Hill. Kamen can ‘t help tonight? Odd

  36. Put kaman in, Jordan hill is stinking it up.

  37. Despite the basket and one that was excellent D.

  38. Rebounding is been a killer, is as simple like that.

  39. Gasol probably leads the league in shots that didn’t hit the rim

  40. Portland showing why they are 13-3 and we are a fringe playoff team.

  41. Kaman should get a chance tonight. The Lakers have no inside presence at all.

  42. OMG. Blake should be the fourth guard off the bench. so many turnovers.
    I hope they have two a days for the next 3 days!
    Rebounding is really killing our team this year.

  43. Another game (like the WAS game last week when Nene went off) where LAL would have won (and probably comfortably) if Pau had been merely mediocre (as opposed to putrid). Is Pau hurt again?

  44. Kaman not playing is equivalent to cutting off your nose to spite your face

  45. Some times MD is just blind. Can he not see how bad Pau is? My 9 year old pointed out how bad.

    MD and his grudges are not a good trait. Just sits there and watches team get killed. Why have Chris on the team if you bench him for talking.

    Game over and it’s in hands of Pau and his 3 for 17 mess and MD being hard headed.

    Ok well

  46. Our PG-less lineup. Let’s see how this goes. Should be fun.

  47. Its not Pau’s fault. He is shooting bad but the offensive rebounds have been on Jordan hill and Shawne Williams. Kaman should be playing next to Pau because Portland has been playing 2 bigs the whole game. Although Kaman isnt a probable solution, it would be nice to see. All the rotations are late.

  48. Fern,
    there´s no dening the Blazers are very good right now, but a couple of the fellas are clearly having off nights, for whatever reason, & the loss of Farmar hasn´t helped at all

  49. Man I know Henry is the acting PG, but someone else on the team’s gotta touch the ball too. He’s just charging into the paint and then missing FTs.

  50. Sufian

    The lack of defensive rebounds has been on pau not Williams or hill because they have been the primary defenders on Aldridge. Lopez and dominated pau on the boards. When Lopez has not been able to get the offensive rebound he has forced pau into tipping rebounds instead of grabbing them. Pau has been so bad on the defensive boards and defensive end as a whole it’s no point of him being on the floor if he’s off on the offensive end. Pau doesn’t sent good screens and doesn’t get to the line.

  51. Here we go with the is MDA fault thing again. They losing bc they cant rebound worth a crap and look like a team that wants those four days off and maybe because we have a fringe playoff team that will lose most times it faces better teams. I hate blaming the coach for stuff that is dependent on the players doing their jobs. This team didnt showed up on the 2nd half.

  52. Henry being dumb and stupid, and hit those damn free throws before triying to talk crap.

  53. Pau needs to play in the fourth to get some garbage points and rebounds so people can say “see… respectable numbers”

  54. @purpleandblood this is a reminder of whats our place this season, we are losing because of our defense and lack of rebounding not because those 2 guys have off games.

  55. Triying a comeback but watching Xavier on the ft line is no different than watching Dwight. Gotta love this team wont quit.

  56. check that, Lakers making a mini-comeback don’t bring Pau back in

  57. Wow, this team just refuses to give up. Amazing.

  58. Holy crap we are in this, i eat my word, go lakers!!!!!!

  59. Fern,
    I agree, there hasn´t been any doubt that our squad is nowhere near the top-tier teams in the league since before the pre-season, right?
    But I meant it´s just one of those nights, which hasn´t been the first this season, where everything is out of whack- but this team´s heart shouldn´t be underestimated

  60. I like how the Lakers are fighting back after going down by double digits and I’m very impressed by Xavier Henry.

  61. Really glad I only turned this game on at the start of the 4th. This is re-damn-diculous right now.

  62. Wes Johnson with the volleyball block!

  63. No Fern when your starting Center and suppose best player is 3 for 15 with no defense that IS why you were losing.

    Look what happened when Pau was pulled. Different game!

  64. Could have used LA Defenders forward Malcolm Thomas who was tearing up the D-league. Unfortunately the Spurs just snatched him up.

  65. OMG i cant believe this comeback im just stunned , im starting to believe we might have have something special on our hands. Even if we lose this team showed something to the entire league!!!

  66. Eating my words and agrreing on this one Keno.

  67. this team´s heart shouldn´t be underestimated

  68. FYI Pau was a minus 21 tonight. They have great heart for sure

  69. Sacre can’t miss!

  70. only catching the end so dont know what brought the comeback but watching meeks and henry be the only dribblers …. meh

  71. Bogus hardenesque flop

  72. true, Pau was pretty bad

  73. Excellent score and quick foul,MDA did good on that one

  74. A 3 and and a foul.

  75. So the consensus is Gasol played bad and has been consistently bad for the entire season(save for the past couple of games). Is it time to trade Gasol? I don’t think even the most ardent supporters of Gasol can defend Pau and say that its worth keeping Gasol at this point.

  76. Bad shot by Meeks, got desperate there, lost but great showing and there is a big chance our closer comes back on Friday so things kinda looking up.

  77. @Gary

    Pau isn’t doing much for his trade value at the moment…

  78. Ok so time to come back Kobe. No last shot plays for Meeks required.

    Blazers are a 7th 8th seed and had a very easy first 20 games. Lakers should have won if Pau and Hill has more then 8 points and combined minus 42!

  79. The things about Pau is his play this season and more importantly his salary even if its is an expiring contract, to makes the salaries work the other team would have to to trade too much for him.

  80. Every time Gasol has one good game it’s worth 5 for his supporters.

  81. OK I’m convinced. Trade Pau for whatever younger assets we can, play the young + fun team, enjoy Kobe’s last 2 years, if something falls into their laps then great, otherwise build a base to do something in 2-3 years.

  82. Melo again, what he is shooting again 41% and still dont play lick of defense, lets give him a max contract at 30 years old, yeah thats the ticket. I wonder when people will finally understand that the Lakers need to get younger and not givving max contracts to 30 year olds if he takes a pycut and less years? Sure welcome aboard if not he can stay and finish his career with the eternal mess that are the Knicks.

  83. Well so far ESPN prediction of the Lakers being 12th seed in the west in spot on. Hopefully they are wrong about Kobe(25th) prediction. Reason I bring this up is we starting all over with Kobe and Nash coming back Friday. If ESPN ranking holds true for Kobe then we are a 12th seed and Kobe is not Kobe anymore and if Kobe is Kobe than its all good.

    and

    Oh yeah Kobe Rules

  84. Is it December? Pau is right on time for his yearly tank, so his trade stock goes down and the Lakers are stuck with him the entire season. He’s done this ever since his name first surfaced as trade bait, years ago. If Pau is still with the Lakers (I have no doubt he will be), he’ll start really playing after the trade deadline.

    Farmar, I hope you have quick healing genes, we’re going to miss you!

    Wes Johnson’s block is exactly why he will be with the Lakers in the future.

    Jodie Meeks has come back down to earth.

    Sacre!!!!!!!! Happy for this kid, he has conducted himself like a pro.

    Is the injury bug having an affair with the Lakers again?

  85. as most of us, I have watched every game this year. anyone defending Pau has blinders on. whether it is his knees or age, he can’t play with this current roster. when he goes out of the game, the team has more energy and plays much better. if there is a trade out there, I sure hope Mitch pulls the trigger soon so we don’t have to suffer through any more lackadaisical efforts from our 7 footer who is too timid to mix it up with much smaller and less skilled players. thanks for the memories Pau, you are a great guy in the community and do countless wonderful things for others, but you are a role player now, not a $19M front line star. maybe coming off of the bench for a contender will wake you up.

  86. I think if MD pulled Pau a little earlier in the 1st and 3rd quarters, Lakers win this game. Portland backup center was schooling Pau tonight. Before even knowing the rest of the guys would make a come back I was yelling at the TV for the coach to pull Pau in the 3rd.