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Lakers vs. Trail Blazers Preview: Who is even going to play in this one?

The playoff rematch between the Lakers and Trail Blazers may lose a bit of star power given both teams’ injury situations.

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Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Five Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Three games into the season, the Los Angeles Lakers are already a little banged up. The team isn’t dealing with some apocalyptic wave of injuries, but they are definitely already feeling the consequences of the quickest turnaround by any defending champions in NBA history.

Anthony Davis missed the team’s Sunday night win over the Minnesota Timberwolves with a calf strain. In that game, LeBron James re-aggravated the sore left ankle he’s been listed with on the previous two injury reports, and Alex Caruso picked up a new hand injury. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said both players will be listed as questionable for the second half of the team’s first back-to-back of the season, which will see them host the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

“Alex probably could have returned if it were a closer game but we erred on the side of caution,” Vogel said, adding that both Caruso and James will be re-evaluated on Monday morning.

“Not really leaning one way or the other,” Vogel said when asked if he was planning to play James or not, given that his injury has evidently gotten worse and because the game is a back-to-back. “We’ll make those decisions on a case-by-case, game-by-game basis throughout the year and if he’s healthy and wants to play we’ll put him in there, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

The Blazers aren’t exactly unscathed so far, either. Carmelo Anthony and Nassir Little will both miss Monday’s game and not travel with the Blazers to Los Angeles due to the league’s health and safety protocols, while Zach Collins is still out with the ankle fracture he suffered in the NBA bubble.

Unfortunately, due to the NBA’s rapid return, there are likely going to be plenty more games like this, and as far as preparing for the second end of a back-to-back goes, the Lakers had the first one go about as well as possible. They blew the Wolves out on Sunday, and no one on their team played more than Kyle Kuzma’s 29 minutes. James himself played just 26, while Montrezl Harrell (20) and Dennis Schröder (25) both got plenty of rest, in addition to Davis straight up sitting the game out. And the Lakers are proving to be an incredibly deep team with a legitimate argument for an 11-man rotation given the strong play of Talen Horton-Tucker, so whether Davis, James and Caruso play or not, they should have enough firepower to make this a competitive game given how easy and restful their prior win was.

But these are the calculations that Vogel, the training staff, front office and players are going to have to collaborate on all year when they’re dealing with little knicks and knacks like this. We’ll get an early look at how they handle an injury report like this one on the second night of a back-to-back when the Lakers and Blazers tip off at 7:00 p.m. PT at Staples Center on Monday night. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet and nationally on NBA TV, but just don’t necessarily expect to see all your favorite players suit up. This one could get weird.

Notes and Updates

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