The Lakers are have won 2 games in a row and 3 of their last 4. This recent stretch — dating back even a few games farther — even if not better than the level of play exhibited at the beginning of the season, is more meaningful since it has been driven mostly by the play of D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle with Brandon Ingram also playing very good basketball in the last week.
All of this is not only encouraging, but does bring back the good feelings fans had to start the year. It seems like forever ago the team was actually playing consistently well, but those times are, seemingly, back even if the level of competition isn’t exactly the same as it was in the team’s first 20 games.
Tonight, then, offers a nice test. The Blazers are in town and offer two angles of inspiration for these Lakers. First, these teams just played a week ago and the Blazers were able to win on their home floor with a good 2nd half performance where Evan Turner’s strong play befuddled the team’s defensive wings and CJ McCollum’s shot making were key in pulling out the game.
Second, though, is that the Blazers are currently in the 8th seed in the West but are only 2 games in front of the Lakers. With this being the 42nd game of the Lakers’ season, we are officially in the 2nd half of the campaign and for a team which would very much like to make a push towards the post-season, things like that matter a great deal. The Blazers — like the Kings, Pelicans, and Nuggets — are one of several teams the Lakers would need to outplay from now until April if the playoffs go from dream to reality. That may be asking too much, of course, but games like this one do take on that extra meaning and represent a step towards that goal.
As for accomplishing the goal of getting a W, since these teams just played, there’s really not a lot to say from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Damian Lillard and McCollum are the keys to the Blazers’ offense and getting a win means slowing them considerably. Further, Turner has shown he can give the Lakers problems and when you add in Crabbe, Harkless, Aminu, and Plumlee there is a mix of active bigs and shooting wings who can pour in buckets not only via their individual talent but through the creativity of their offensive schemes.
Countering that, though, is that the Blazers simply don’t defend very well at all. And when you consider that the Lakers’ offense — especially their starting group — has been putting up some impressive numbers lately, there is some hope they will be able to put up enough points to not only keep the game competitive, but to end up with a W. That will be dependent on Russell continuing his stretch of impressive play, Randle doing the same, and Ingram showing that his past week is actually the start of him “figuring it out”. If those things happen and Lou, Young — especially Young since he has been struggling some lately — and Clarkson bring some scoring punch, this game could be interesting late.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.