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Mo Williams

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LaMarcusSource: Harry How/Getty Images North America
Source: Harry How/Getty Images

December 1, 2013 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Time Warner Cable SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (9-8) return home to play the red hot Portland Trail Blazers (13-3), who come into STAPLES Center as a surprise 2nd seed in the Western Conference so far this season. The Blazers are led by the duo of F/C LaMarcus Aldridge and PG Damian Lillard.  Aldridge, who is having another All-Star caliber season, comes into tonight’s game averaging a career high 22.1 PPG and 9.6 RPG, while Lillard continues to make a name for himself in the NBA, averaging 19.9 PPG and 5.8 APG.

The Lakers, who came off of a successful 2-1 road trip, look to continue their momentum tonight vs. the Trail Blazers. The Lakers won their last game vs. Detroit Pistons, led by G/F Wesley Johnson and F Shawne Williams, who scored 27 points and 20 points respectably, shooting a combined 12-18 from the three-point line. This might be the Lakers last game without G Kobe Bryant, who continues to get himself into game-shape to return to the floor with the rest of the team.

Key Matchup: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Pau Gasol

This game will come down to the battle of the bigs, notably between Aldridge and Lakers C Pau Gasol. Both players showcase a variety of post moves that comes at a premium in today’s NBA. Both of these players can also comfortably shoot from as far as 20 feet away from the basket, forcing both players to guard against a perimeter shot while protecting against a drive to the basket.

While Aldridge has been playing at a very high level throughout the season, Gasol, has slowly but surely returned to his old form. After struggling to battle conditioning and groin issues earlier this season, Gasol has started to become assertive with the ball again, creating his own shot from the post and driving more aggressively to the basket. As a result, Gasol has increased his scoring productivity, averaging 17.75 PPG his last 8 games compared to a subpar 12.11 PPG his first 9 games this season.

If Gasol can hold his own versus Aldridge and continue to play aggressively and be assertive to call for the ball, look for the Lakers to give themselves a chance to defeat the Blazers tonight.

X-Factors

Trail Blazers: G Mo Williams - who joined the Blazers after a 2-year stint as the starting point guard for the Utah Jazz, has now thrived in his new role as a 6th man for the Portland Trailblazers, averaging 9.1 PPG and 4.8 APG despite only playing 25.5 MPG. If Williams can successfully lead the Trail Blazers’ bench the upgraded Lakers 2nd unit, who average a league leading . When Mo Williams scores more than 10 points this season, the Trail Blazers are a perfect 6-0 this season.

Lakers: F Shawne Williams - who fits the stretch 4 position in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, finally had himself a breakout game on the stat sheet. Williams scored in double-digit for the first time since  February 2, 2012, scoring 20 points and shooting 6-11 from the three-point line. The Lakers hope for Williams to continue to shoot well versus a more stout Trail Blazers defense, who lead the NBA in fewest opponents  three-point percentage this year, holding opponents to 32% this season.

Projected Starters

PGDamian Lillard / Steve Blake
SGWesley Matthews / Jodie Meeks
SFNicolas Batum / Wesley Johnson
PFLaMarcus Aldridge / Jordan Hill
CRobin Lopez / Pau Gasol

Prediction

Lakers: 104-100

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