I am keeping this short and sweet today since, like the Lakers, I am on the road (and short for time because of my travels). The Lakers visit Portland tonight in a game which will be Kobe’s last game in the Rose Garden (I know it’s the Moda Center now, but I don’t call it that). These “last game in city X” are always a bit tricky to navigate for Kobe and the rest of the team and I expect tonight to be no different.
The Blazers have been a rival of Kobe’s Lakers over the course of his career, especially the in the early/mid 2000’s when both franchises were league powerhouses. Kobe and Shaq kept those Blazers out of the Finals in 2000 and that team never seemed to fully recover, ultimately disbanding after transforming into the “Jailblazers” and all the problems which came with roster.
That’s another story, though. Visiting the Pacific Northwest has always meant a challenge, even if the Blazers weren’t a top team. They have a great crowd and the Lakers have always seemed to struggle there. Tonight, then, it will be interesting to see what type of reception Kobe receives. It will also be interesting to see the team’s young core — minus Larry Nance, who has already been ruled out with his sore knee — reacts to what will likely be a raucous crowd ready to see Kobe’s last game and a Blazer victory.
Portland has the type of roster which gives the Lakers problems. In Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum, they have an explosive backcourt which scores from all over the floor. The have long and athletic frontcourt players who run the floor and hit the glass. They also have enough wing defense to make the lives of the Lakers’ scoring wings harder. Also consider that Lillard always seems to have a big game against the Lakers and I don’t think this game will yield good results.
On the Lakers’ side, I mentioned the Kobe angle, but these games are still about the incremental steps and development of the young players. Continued positive steps forward are why we watch and tonight will be no different. So, here’s to solid games from Russell, Randle, and Clarkson. I wouldn’t mind them going heads up with their Blazer counterparts and winning a few of those battles. These are the games within the game worth our attention.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.