The (56-23) Los Angeles Lakers are hosting the (48-31) Portland Trailblazers in a Sunday Matinee game at the Staples Center. Today’s game starts the last week of the regular season but make no mistake, the Purple and Gold are prepared to defend their Championship title.
In beating the Timberwolves on Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers earned the top spot in the Western Conference for the third straight season.
A win is a win and I’ll take it, but it was a mixed bag of both good and bad things. The bench led by Jordan Farmar’s 13 points (hitting 3-6 shots from behind the arc) scored 33 points, D.J. Mbenga scored a career-high 11 points and the team had only 12 turnovers for the game.
The Lakers have split their last two games, although the effort shows me that this team is prepared to put up a fight. I always feel that once you reach mid-March on the schedule, a team needs to play Playoff basketball and in my mind’s eye, I have some concerns about the team. However, no doubt that people have prematurely counted this team out. I also feel that several teams will pay for their transgressions.
I’m not buying all of the ‘this team won’t make it out of the first round’ talk. The haters making this statement seem to have forgotten that this team has already done all the things that the naysayers are saying that this team can’t do now. It won’t be easy, but the Lakers will repeat. Regardless of what happens in the Playoffs, the outcome will be solely based on what the Lakers are able to accomplish.
The Trailblazers have been a thorn in the Lakers side for a while. The season series is tied, considering that on February 6th the Lakers won in Portland at the Rose Garden to snap a 9-game losing streak without Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers seem to play like a more focused group without Kobe; they’re 5-2 without the Black Mamba, but make no mistake this statement is merely an observation that is valid until the end of the game. The best player in the game is rested, suited up and will return to action.
The Lakers need this game to secure home court advantage because the Trailblazers are a possible first round opponent for the Lakewrs.
The Trailblazers have lost 14 of 16 games at Staples Center, although with the importance of this game by late afternoon they will have lost 15 of 16. The Lakers need to play hard, play with a sense of urgency, play aggressive from the opening tip-off, and send a message to the Trailblazers that the Staples Center is your house of horrors.
The Lakers have to establish Pau Gasol in the painted area and run their offense through him. The Lakers’ front line has to be aggressive on both ends of the court. They need to play solid defense starting with stopping the dribble penetration of Andre Miller. They needs to do a solid job of defending the screen and roll action plays, limit Portland to one shot per possession and extend their defense out to the three point arc.
The Lakers also have to contain the Blazers two leading scorers Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Lakers reserves have to continue to step their game up and not allow themselves to be outscored by the Trailblazers’ reserves.
Today it is all about defense and execution.
Tip-off: 12:30 PM PST
- Los Angeles: ABC (Mike Breen, Mark Jackson & Jeff Van Gundy)
- Portland: ABC (Mike Breen, Mark Jackson & Jeff Van Gundy)
- Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
- Portland: 95.5 FM (Brian Wheeler & Antonio Harvey)
- Ron Artest (Left Heel Bruise/Sprained Left Thumb)
- Shannon Brown (Sprained Right Thumb)
- Kobe Bryant (Avulsion Fracture, Right Index Finger)
- Andrew Bynum (Left Achilles Strain) Out
- Sasha Vujacic (Sprained Right Shoulder)
- Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is probable.
- Greg Oden (Knee) Out for the Season
- Joel Pryzbilla (Knee) Out for the Season
- Marcus Camby (Hamstring) listed as Day-to-Day