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Lakers-Blazers Preview: Starting the Worst Week Ever

* Update:  Kobe Bryant is expected to play.  So you can disregard paragraph #2.  Or any part of the recap referencing Kobe resting.  Also, the  "Worst Week Ever" title in regards to what should feel like a long week waiting for the Playoffs to start, not expectations of Lakers' play.  I'm quite anxious.

e Portland Trailblazers come to town tomorrow in what very well may be a First Round preview, as the Blazers are currently tied in W-L with San Antonio, each team trying to avoid the 8th spot. Typically, this might lead to a playoff level atmosphere as the the Lakers or Blazers would look to gain any advantage over the possible foe and hated rival (well, at least from their perspective).  But don't expect to see any statement games this time, or even Kobe Bryant

We still don't know if Kobe Bryant is playing, since Phil left it up to #24, and no word has been given yet.  I don't expect Kobe to.   L.A. might not have anything to gain by charming the Black Mamba from his basket.  The Lakers did end a 9 game losing streak in Portland last meeting, and they did it sans Kobe.  It should be safe to assume, the Lakers and Kobe feel they can do it again.  This time, the Blazers come to Staples, where they haven't won since the '06-'07 season, and are 0 for their last 5 when the floor has Purple and Gold paint.  Plus the Lakers are 7-2 on Sunday home games this year. 

Who wants some tacos?  "We want tacos!"  You just may get them.

The Blazers come in ranked dead last in the NBA in pace with a an 87.6 rating.  They average 97.9 PPG, and rank a respectable 8th in offensive rating at 110.7, meaning they make the most of their opportunities - they're an efficient team.  They just don't score a lot.  The Lakers were able to hold the Blazers to 82 points in the last meeting, but they did so against a Brandon Roy less Blazers squad.  He's the stick the stirs the pot, so I would expect a much more difficult task this time, as he's quite good enough to give Kobe and Ron Artest fits on the defensive end.  He averages, 21.8 ppg, 4.5 rebs, and 4.8 assists.  Basically, he's Kobe-lite, and definitely has Kobe's seal of approval.  He's able to create a shot from anywhere on the floor and hit, going left or right, but most especially at the top of the key.  He's absolutely deadly when he unleashes his cross over pull up j from the middle of the floor.

Roy won't be the only change in Portland's starting line-up from last game.  There are two more.  Also back in the starting line-up is Nicolas Batum, the athletic 21 year old Frenchmen.  Although he's typically quiet against the Lakers, he's now averaging 10.2 ppg on 52.9% FGA and 42.5% 3P.  He 's averaging 3.5 3-Point attempts per game, so leaving him wide open might not be a good idea.  The last change is Marcus Camby, acquired via trade in February, and now starting Center.  He averages 7.2 ppg, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.96 blocks per game.

Besides Brandon Roy, the most important match-up may be at PG.  What's new?  Andre Miller is the type of guard that can destroy our PG's when he has his mind to it.  He's deceptive, great at penetration and a devastating post up player at his position.  Lakers' guards must do a good job at keeping him from the paint and opening up the floor for LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby and Nicolas Batum. 

It's not about Portland though.  It's about the Lakers, as Derek Fisher stated.  We all know what those things are, so excuse me for not detailing them.  At this point, I'm tired of regurgitating the issues.  Will they do them or won't they?  Everything falls on what they do or don't do - what they should do.  If the Lakers put it back together, there should be a team that can beat them.  The question is can they.  The Lakers come into this game following a boring, yet successful win in Minnesota.  They're going through the motions right now, and we're forced to look for consolations like:

  • Kobe getting rest.
  • Pau looking very comfortable.  He's averaging 25.3 ppg, 12.8 rebs, and 6.0 assists in his last 4 games.
  • Farmar, Brown and Vujacic finding comfortable roles within the team 79 games into the season.  Of course that's still a positive, but it's not quite enough yet, to put us at ease yet.  Their increased roles these past two games (maybe more) just may give them the push the Lakers need heading into the Playoffs.

Will these Lakers impress against Portland?  They could, but I'm not so sure it's a priority, or if it should be.  They certainly have something to play for considering they need to ensure HCA against the Magic, should both team have a Finals rematch.  Yet, the above consolations might make what may turn into the longest final week of the regular season ever worth the wait.   We need the above things to happen, before everything comes together.  Better late than never?  Let's get it over with quick.  I'm tired of waiting.

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