My full preview that I wrote for what was supposed to be a game on Wednesday, August 26th remains intact about halfway down this post. If you’re looking for my thoughts about how the Lakers can win this game and what I think the keys are in this matchup at this point in the series, that’s all there. You can skip down if that is your interest at this point. Really, I won’t be offended at all.
However, this game is now being played on Saturday, August 29th because this has been quite a week. The shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin moved the Bucks players to protest their Wednesday game and the games that followed theirs, including the Lakers vs. the Blazers, were similarly pushed to the side. So, here we are, playing a game that the players really did not want to just a few days ago, but are ready to now.
Or, at least, are as ready as they’re going to be. You see, there’s a heaviness that hangs over all this now. Well, moreso now is probably more accurate. The pursuit of goals that go beyond the basketball court was always there for these players, before coming to this bubble, hell, before COVID-19. That heaviness is a lived experience. It’s something that does not go away and cannot be shaken off like a bad foul call or a tweak of the ankle.
The events of the past week with Jacob Blake, like the events with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and countless other names known and not known by the general public are ones many of these players carry as part of their own identities, as part of the communities they call their own.
And the burden to try to enact change in and for those communities is also a heaviness they carry on a daily basis. What are they doing? What can they be doing? Can they be doing more? These are the questions they ask themselves and they’re desperately seeking the answers. No one knows more than them what it means to be in the position they’re in. So many of them are the ones who “made it out” and now trying to sort through ways where that can be a reality for others is of so much importance to so many of them.
With that, they’ve continued to play and seem to feel that is the best way to continue to create those opportunities and bring light to the issues that they know need addressing. And not just by them. The path forward is one that requires those with power to change our institutions to believe that change is needed too. That’s a step that players are pushing for, even if I think we all know that will take time. As frustrating as that reality can be, change does not occur overnight, but my hope is that we’re getting closer.
And now, if you’re still reading, my game preview is below.
While the Lakers only seem to be getting stronger game to game in this series, the Blazers are showing the wear and tear of a long push to get to this point at all. Things got worse in Monday’s game 4 when Damian Lillard suffered a sprained knee that not only shut him down for the rest of that game, but will keep him out for tonight’s game 5 as well.
With that backdrop, the Lakers look to close out Portland and advance to the 2nd round. Which, honestly, should happen tonight. I never want to take games for granted or forecast any game as a victory — regardless of circumstances. That said, down their best player, looking worn down, and being decreasingly competitive from with each passing game, Portland is ripe to leave Orlando’s bubble. The Lakers only need to play to a certain standard and with a certain intensity and focus to make it so.
Through 4 games, the formula to beat this team is well established. If the Lakers defend well at the point attack and rotate well behind the action at the ball, push the pace in transition to get good shots against a scrambling defense, and hit perimeter shots, they’ll win. If these things don’t happen, Portland can hang around. It all sounds simple, but the players need to execute, they need to take the gameplan and their opponent seriously, and they need to treat this game with the importance it carries. Eliminating a team is hard and requires a specific mindset to happen. The Lakers need to play with one tonight.
That’s really all there is to say about this game. So, while I wish I had more for you, I really don’t. As Pete and I spelled out at the end of our most recent podcast, getting some extra rest and additional time to prepare for the next round as the OKC/Houston series continues on for at least 6 games can give them an advantage when it’s time to play those games. So, go closeout this opponent and look forward to the next one. Let’s go.
Where you can watch: 6:00pm start time on TNT and Spectrum SportsNet.