The Los Angeles Lakers will wrap up a preseason back-to-back when they travel to Ontario to face the Portland Trail Blazers. This is a unique challenge for a team that needs to get healthier before the regular season begins, is also shorthanded, and is coming off an overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Jeremy Lin returned to the lineup after missing time following two ankle sprains and looked sharp. He scored 15 points while dishing five dimes, and is clearly working on his two-man game with big man Ed Davis. The two have consistently connected on pick-and-rolls and play well together, working on chemistry as if they were Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Lin played off the bench in his first game back, which could work to Byron Scott's advantage if he rotates Davis and Lin in together at the same time as a bench duo.
Kobe Bryant is expected to play reduced minutes at least, though we'll likely know more about his status leading up to the game. He ended the game on a high-note, drilling 10 points worth of jumpers and two free-throws before Scott rested him in overtime.
Portland is the kind of team that will give the Lakers' defense fits. Damian Lillard is one of the best scoring point guards in the NBA and is still growing as a player. Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas had their way with the Lakers' perimeter defense, and Lillard will have a crack at them without any rest. LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the best power forwards in the NBA and can work inside and outside, challenging Jordan Hill and Ed Davis. Terry Stotts is also one of the better offensive coaches, running a flow offense that will keep the Lakers moving.
Portland on the second half of a back-to-back isn't much of a reward for a pretty good effort against Phoenix, especially for a battered team like the Lakers, but they'll give it a shot. Los Angeles has made something that looks like progress over the last two games, Hopefully they can keep moving in the right direction with just two games left in the preseason.
Time: 7 p.m. PT