After losing six games in a row and 14 of their previous 15, the Lakers earned a win against the ‘Wolves on Friday night by riding Jordan Clarkson’s hot hand and coming back in the 2nd half to force OT then pull away in the extra frame. While that win may impact the Lakers lottery odds by allowing the sinking Suns to get to within a half game of the 2nd worst record, I am still of the mind that wins like that one — where besides Corey Brewer’s 3rd quarter spurt, it was young guys who carried the way — can have some positive meaning within a season full of so many losses.
That said, my sense is that tonight’s game against the Blazers isn’t likely to end with a similar result to Friday’s game. The Blazers have given the Lakers problems all season, their backcourt of Lillard and McCollum proving too dynamic and being able to turn games in Portland’s favor whenever games were somewhat competitive. Add to this that the Blazers are currently battling for a playoff spot, sitting in the 9th spot a game back of the Nuggets, and games like this are truly must wins for them.
I expect them to give the Lakers their best effort and, even if the Lakers are able to match what PDX offers, they’re not likely to be able to keep up. That’s just the truth of the matter and I’d be lying if I said anything more than I see the Blazers winning this game and likely doing so handily.
However, even with all the above being true, I think the Lakers can make a game of this. Their young players have been doing well lately and have been able to string multiple positive performances together. D’Angelo Russell is mixing scoring and playmaking, Randle is doing work on the glass while showing more as a shooter to complement his off-the-dribble game, Brandon Ingram has been aggressive off the bounce and shooting his pull up jumper with confidence, and Jordan Clarkson is mixing in just enough passing to keep the defense honest when he turns the corner with his typical attack mentality.
Portland is equipped to deal with some of this, but their defense can be broken down when stretched out and put into multiple screen actions on the ball. Having Nurkic anchoring and protecting the rim has helped them, but they still have too many guards who are average (or a tick below) defensively and, as the Lakers know from their own experience, that can be a lot to overcome when playing guards who can really score.
So, it would not surprise me if this game is competitive for stretches even if, as noted above, I don’t think the outcome is really in question. Considering the matchups across the board and the potential for points to be poured in by both sides, this could end up being a fun one.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.