Records: Lakers 53-24 (2 seed); Blazers 38-39 (10 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.5 (3rd); Blazers 107.9 (19th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 107.3 (7th); Blazers 109.6 (16th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Blazers: Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, James Jones, LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye? (Przybilla is out after breaking his hand on the rim, so Iâ€™m not sure what McMillan does)
Lakers Notes: Luke Walton is a game-time decision tonight, although in my mind a few more days on the bench are probably good for him. Plus, we know his weakness is matching up with long and athletic teams, and we get one of those tonight.
Last game against Sacramento saw some of the best defense the Lakers have played in a while â€” the Kings never shot better than 42% for a quarter after the first quarter.
General NBA Notes: Count me among those thrilled that Adrian Dantley finally made the Hall of Fame. Talk about a guy with a sweet stroke and an effortless scorer.
If you havenâ€™t seen this, the guys at Memphis Grizzlies blog Three Shades of Blue got to sit down with the team owner and ask questions. Look for the fun spins on why trading Pau for Kwame was a good move long term (I love that trade as a Lakers fan but find it hard to think Memphis could not have done better than that deal).
Lots of talk yesterday about bumping the age restriction for the NBA to 20. Personally, I know it led to some bad decisions by kids who are surrounded by sycophants, but I donâ€™t like the 19 age limit. So, youâ€™re old enough to vote, youâ€™re old enough to join the military and be trained to kill and possibly die defending our country, but you canâ€™t play in the NBA? I get why the NBA, the NCAA and team GMs think the age limit is a good idea, but to me basketball (and just about everything else) should be a meritocracy.
The Blazers Coming In: A year from now, I think weâ€™ll be talking about how we donâ€™t really want to face the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs. But this year they are slumping toward the end of the season, having won just three of their last 10 and losing five in a row.
Part of that is injuries. Tonight no Martell Webster, no Przybilla in the paint, no Miles (a blessing for the Blazers) and still no Oden. Brandon Roy just returned from his injury. How, bad are they playing? Look at this post from the OregonLive Blazers Blog:
Last night’s 72-65 loss to the Spurs was probably the ugliest game I’ve been associated with, and I’ve done a number of high school games with no shot clock.
However, even with all the injuries the Blazers are a young and athletic team, something that will be more true with Frye in the starting lineup. Those kinds of teams give the Lakers trouble traditionally. For more Blazers info, check out The Blazers Edge.
Keys To The Game: Despite all the athletes, the Blazers play at one of the slowest paces in the league (86.6 possessions per game, 29th in the league, about 8 less per game than the Lakers). The Lakers fast breaks come off of good defense, as we saw in the third quarter of the Kings game two nights ago â€” if the Lakers play good defense they should be able to run on the Blazers and get some easy buckets in transition.
Whoever has to guard Gasol tonight should be a power forward (either Frye or Aldridge) and Pau should be able to get points on the block and in the paint. Odom needs to get inside as well, the Blazers are not a good rebounding team and the Lakers should be able to get some easy putbacks and second-chance points.
The Blazers do not have a real good answer for Kobe either, he should have a good night.
We need Odom to show up on the defensive end tonight, as he (and others) will have to slow Aldridge, who has been the best scorer on the Blazers in the last 10 games. Fisher cannot sag off Blake at the three-point line. The bench needs to keep a lid on Travis Outlaw, who can fill it up (especially from three) off the Blazers bench.
Where you can watch: Game time is 7 pm on KCAL 9 or League Pass