Goin Back to Cali
The Portland Trail Blazers are headed back down to the state of California to take on the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time this season.
Matchup: Portland (14-13) @ Los Angeles Lakers (14-15)
Venue: Staples Center
Time: 7:30 PM PT
Date: Friday, Dec. 28, 2012
Staples Center hasn’t been kind to the Blazers throughout the years, but with the Lakers struggling, you never know when you might be able to steal one on the road.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
The Blazers opened their season with an exciting victory over Los Angeles. They outscored them 116-106, and while they gave up big performances to both Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, they had much more balance in their own starting lineup.
Both of these teams shot nearly the exact same percentage in the first matchup. Three-point shooting, free-throw shooting and general shooting from the field were all spot-on.
These two teams, although you might not be able to tell on the surface, are quite a bit alike. They are the top two teams in points by a starting lineup, they are the bottom two teams in points by a second unit and they both are floating around .500.
Los Angeles is picking up speed as the season goes on, but until they can prove themselves on a more regular basis, they won’t be a clear-cut favorite against any team in the league.
What to Watch: Portland
When the Blazers played the Sacramento Kings on the road just two games back, they had a tough time securing the ball, and movement didn’t appear to be any sort of priority. The most recent game, however, was drastically different.
Portland was moving the ball well in transition and in the half-court sets. They created easy scoring opportunities the entire game, and that’s what they must do against the Lakers.
If the Blazers come out and play sloppy basketball—the way they did two games back in Sacramento—they won’t stand a chance against L.A. But if they take care of the ball and create open looks for each other, they’ll hang in with the Lakers all the way through.
What to Watch: Los Angeles
The Lakers have the talent on their roster to be a great defensive team, but they’ve yet to show that they can consistently get it done on that end of the floor.
The only position where they truly lack a defensive presence is point guard. Steve Nash is a liability defensively, but everybody else on the court can help make up for his deficiencies.
The problem is that this team is old, and they’ve looked like it in late-game situations. They’ve been known to collapse late this season, but they’ve also been seen locking down opposing offenses.
The question becomes, which group will we see against Portland?
Dwight Howard had a monster game the first time these two teams met. He had 33 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and he was an efficient 9-of-15 from the floor. The surprising part, though, is that he was 15-of-19 from the foul line, and if you’re taking bets, it’s safe to assume he’ll never do that again in his career.
J.J. Hickson has been outstanding for Portland this season. He has nine straight double-dobules, he can play in a fast-paced or half-court offense and he has single-handedly created scoring opportunities for a young, inexperienced Blazers team.
There’s no question that Howard is the more physically dominant player in this matchup, but J.J. Hickson has become used to that. He’s not a traditional center, as his 6’9” frame is undersized night in and night out, but his energy and relentlessness has led to his success.
Howard hasn’t looked like his old self this year, and he’s become known to take plays off. We won’t see any of that from Hickson, so the question becomes whether or not Howard shows up.
Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Wesley Matthews
Los Angeles: N/A
The Lakers have had a disappointing start to their season, but they’ve won five of their last six, and they’ll look to keep momentum on their side against the Trail Blazers.