Lakers-Trail Blazers Preview: With Or Without Drew

CHARLOTTE NC - FEBRUARY 14: Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he sits on the bench during their game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 14 2011 in Charlotte North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Ever since the All-Star break, the Lakers have defied expectations by engaging energetically with their regular-season schedule. Instead of staring at the calendar and waiting for the playoffs to roll around, they've gone about their day-in, day-out business as if these games really matter. Over a month has passed since the disaster in Cleveland, and not once in 12 contests since then have the champs pulled a mail-in job on us. Their effort against Minnesota perhaps wasn't one to keep on the DVR, but it was far from the total no-shows we saw earlier in the season against the likes of Milwaukee and Memphis. This consistent exertion of professional-grade effort... it's just so unlike them. And I can't help but wondering when it'll come to an end.

It was about this time last year when the Lakers kicked their feet up and called it a regular season. Granted, the circumstances were different. They'd effectively wrapped up the top seed in the Western Conference and apparently didn't feel that beating out the Cavaliers and Magic for home-court advantage in a possible Finals matchup was worth the effort (which, as luck would have it, turned out to be right). These days, they're locked in a tight race with the Mavericks for the more tangible goal of second seed in the conference. Maybe that's what's keeping them focused, or maybe it was their Game Seven experience in June, when home court gave them a decisive edge over the Celtics. In any event, tonight they can demonstrate anew their commitment to putting in an honest day's work when they host the Portland Trail Blazers, a team in its own tussle for playoff position.

Last we saw the Blazers was back on February 23, when they fell to the purp and yellow in overtime at the Rose Garden. Shortly thereafter, Portland dealt Joel Przybilla to Charlotte for Gerald Wallace, who initially came off the bench for Nate McMillan but lately has replaced Marcus Camby in the starting lineup. Last night against the 76ers, Wallace had his best game as a Blazer, piling up 25 points, six rebounds, eight assists and four steals in a nine-point Portland victory. That was the Blazers' third straight win and their seventh in their last nine games, a run that's brought them within a game and a half of the Nuggets in the race for the West's fifth seed.

Portland's strength, as it's been for several years now, is at the offensive end. They run a patient attack that takes excellent care of the ball. Though not blessed with great shooters, they have some efficient scoring options in Wesley Matthews, who's making over 40% of his threes this year, and LaMarcus Aldridge, who could be headed for second team All-NBA honors at season's end. And they hit the offensive glass extremely well: Aldridge in particular this year has greatly improved in that respect. That'll be something to keep an eye on tonight, as the Lakers have allowed five of their last six opponents to rebound more than 30% of their own misses.

On defense, the Blazers are nothing special. They rank 14th in the league in defensive efficiency and have recently had trouble slowing down strong offensive teams like the Mavs and Heat. Adding Wallace to their portfolio hasn't had much effect on their defensive returns. In their two games against the Blazers this year, the Lakers have scored prolifically, putting up 1.13 points per possession last month and a scorching 1.32 points per trip, their biggest offensive explosion of the season, when the Blazers visited Staples in November.

That the Blazers played last night in Portland, of course, tilts today's contest in favor of the Lake Show. In addition to the usual comforts of home, the Lakers should have more hop in their step and lift in their legs. Which isn't to guarantee that they'll be at full strength. At the time I'm writing this, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, there's been no word on whether Andrew Bynum will get sent to his room for a game as punishment for clobbering Michael Beasley on Friday. It would be a shame if the Blazers were spared the wrath of the Great Bynum Awakening, but if so Drew has only himself to blame.

 

And then there's Kobe Bryant. His form has been in decline for a few weeks now. Even before he injured his ankle against Dallas on March 12, he was in the throes of a shooting slump, and it's only got worse since then. Just once in his last 15 games has he shot at least 50% from the field. What was originally a short-term issue has become a significant, medium-term problem, and the task now - for him, Phil Jackson and the team trainers - is to make sure it gets sorted in time for the playoffs.

It's not easy or comfortable to watch Kobe go out there, game after game, and hoist up brick after brick, and it's even less so when we know that he's hurting. There's a big part of me that wishes he'd shut it down for a few nights and try to get well. In the end, though, I'm willing to lodge my trust in Phil and Kobe, however occasionally difficult it may be. They've got far better information than we do about Kobe's condition and the potential benefits of resting him. They've got ample experience in managing Kobe's bruises and owies in the context of a championship push. That doesn't guarantee they'll make the correct decision, but it does mean their judgment is entitled to a fair amount of deference.

So we'll see how Kobe looks tonight. Against the Timberwolves, he was terrible at the outset but seemed to get his legs under him a bit as the game wore on. Fortunately, he's surrounded by plenty of bros who are playing some fine ball right now. None of them is playing any better than Drew, who - one hopes, with clemency from the league office - will get to continue his roll tonight, though with fewer forearm shivers.

UNSEXY UPDATE: The Lakers announced on Sunday morning that Drew has received a two-game suspension. (H/t the handsome and mysterious princeton11loveshalos.)

 

             Trail Blazers             

                   Lakers                 

 


League Rank


League Rank

Record...................................

40-29

10

49-20

4

Net Points Per Game..............

+1.4

14

+6.5

3

Pace.......................................

88.2

30

90.7

22

Offensive Rating.....................

108.3

11

111.7

2

Turnover Rate (Off.).............

12.7%

5

12.4%

2

FTA/FGA (Off.)....................

0.28

27

0.29

19

Free-Throw %......................

79.9

3

78.2

7

3PT FGA/FGA (Off.)............

0.22

15

0.22

16

3PT% (Off.)........................

34.7

21

35.9

13

Effective FG% (Off.)............

48.5

22

50.5

10

True Shooting% (Off.)..........

52.9

22

54.8

11

Off Rebounding Rate............

29.5%

4

29.8%

3

Defensive Rating.....................

106.9

14

104.5

8

Turnover Rate (Def.).............

15.7%

1

13.0%

18

FTA/FGA (Def.)...................

0.31

18

0.23

1

3PT FGA/FGA (Def.)............

0.23

17

0.24

22

3PT% (Def.)........................

36.7

20

33.8

5

Effective FG% (Def.)............

51.1

24

47.9

5

True Shooting% (Def.)..........

55.5

23

51.6

3

Def Rebounding Rate............

72.4%

21

72.2%

22

Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Silver Screen and Roll

You must be a member of Silver Screen and Roll to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Silver Screen and Roll. You should read them.

Join Silver Screen and Roll

You must be a member of Silver Screen and Roll to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Silver Screen and Roll. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker