On Friday night, the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers handily beat the Orlando Magic to break out of a streak of two straight losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers earlier in the week. In a rematch of that Tuesday contest with the Blazers that they were a Damian Lillard fourth-quarter explosion away from winning, can the Lakers get a W now that the venue has switched to Staples Center?
The task certainly won't be easy. Portland is one of the best teams in the league this year, blowing teams away with one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. The Blazers rank in the top-10 in the association in both offensive rating (tied for 6th) and defensive rating (a somewhat surprising third-overall), which combined give them the third best net rating, outscoring opponents by a full 7 points per 100 possessions.
What can the Lakers do to defeat such a juggernaut? One possible strategy would be to attempt to attack fill-in starter (and legendary former-Laker) Chris Kaman in the pick-and-roll. The slow footed big man currently owns the worst individual defensive rating on Portland, with opponents scoring 100.8 points per 100 possessions while he is on the floor, which is 1.1 points better than they do on average against Portland (98.9). Opposing players being guarded by Kaman are also shooting 59.6% within six feet of the basket, so this is clearly a good area for the Lakers to attempt to take advantage of. While Jordan Hill and Ed Davis are not exactly post up threats, if the Lakers can get them the ball on the move, it could lead to good things offensively and a possible victory for Los Angeles.
Also helpful for the Lakers? It looks like Kobe Bryant will return for this one after sitting out with the Lakers version of a DNP- (OLD), though there's no official word yet. While Bryant was awful against the Clippers, it wasn't like he got a lot of help from his teammates in that contest. Let's see if his return can be a spark that propels the Lakers to their second win in a row.
Time: 6:30 p.m.