After snapping their three-game losing streak and concluding their road trip with a victory against the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers now head back home where they will play their next three games. They will face the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday as they get the chance to build off the winning momentum that they left Phoenix with.
Start time and TV schedule
Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
When: 7 p.m. PT, Sunday, Nov. 12.
Where: Crypto.com Arena
Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet
The Lakers’ most recent road trip wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped for. They only won one out of four games and their issues continue to be concerning. That’s why Friday’s victory against the Suns was vital because, like what LeBron James said postgame, it got them over the hump. Their first road win after five tries felt like they got a monkey off their back.
Now that they’re back in comfortable territory, Los Angeles has a chance to make up for their recent losing skid. The next three opponents — Blazers, Grizzlies and Kings — have also had their fair share of health issues and struggles to begin the season. The Lakers need to take advantage of this, build off the momentum from Friday’s victory and go on their first winning streak.
The rebuilding Blazers team that awaits the Lakers are on a two-game losing streak. They’ve suffered injuries to some of their key core pieces like rookie Scoot Henderson, Robert Williams III, Malcolm Brogdon, Ish Wainright and Anfernee Simons. That’s why it makes sense why the Blazers are currently dead last in the league in points averaged per game and have the sixth-worst defense.
So while it’s dangerous to assume that this is a giveaway game for L.A., it’s still fair to think that Portland might just be their easiest opponent yet in this young season. This is the perfect time for the purple and gold to work on their issues as well, like actually starting the game on a strong note, winning the rebound battle and making an effort to defend and shoot the basketball. Can they finally do all of these things right in one game?
Aside from all that, here are two other storylines worth following ahead of Sunday’s primetime tilt against the Blazers:
What starting lineup will Darvin Ham go with?
The biggest adjustment that Darvin Ham has made so far was implemented as early as the ninth game of the season. Ham made the decision to replace Austin Reaves in the starting lineup for Cam Reddish.
Darvin Ham says bringing Austin Reaves off the bench “wasn’t a demotion.” He likened it to Manu coming off the bench and balancing the Lakers unit. Ham thought it would allow Reaves to play freely and still finish.— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) November 11, 2023
The starting unit of D’Angelo Russell, Reddish, Taurean Prince, LeBron James and Anthony Davis ended up being a plus-two in 12 minutes. However, the same unit didn’t necessarily change how the Lakers have been starting games. They still trailed by nine to end the first quarter and were heavily out-rebounded. If anything, it was a different lineup that pivoted and won the game for the Lakers last Friday.
As Ham pointed out postgame, the unit of Reaves, Reddish, James, Rui Hachimura and Christian Wood is what turned the tide in the Lakers’ favor. It was the lineup that, in six minutes, outscored the Suns 18-2 and finished the night with a plus-10.
One of the biggest reasons why this group thrived was because Kevin Durant was on the bench, but that shouldn’t dismiss the fact that Reddish had his best game as a Laker — concluding the night with 17 points, three rebounds, three steals on 5-8 shooting from the 3-point line. Reddish’s performance justified Ham’s move to insert him in the starting lineup.
Now, the question is if Ham will continue with this new starting lineup moving forward. If he indeed does, it’ll be interesting to see more sample data on how this unit works on Sunday, and whether or not bringing Reaves from the bench will help him be more effective.
Can the Lakers finally comfortably win a game?
The Lakers have won four games, but all have been in crunch time with their superstars playing more than 35 minutes. Given who they're facing next, LA needs to emphasize winning this one as comfortably as possible instead of having to cram their way to victory in the fourth quarter again.
James and Davis, who both currently are averaging 35.0 and 36.7 minutes, respectively, have already had injury scares and the last thing they want is to worsen those and burn themselves out this early in the season. The Lakers need to do themselves a favor by dominating the Blazers from start to finish on Sunday.
Notes and Updates:
- Besides Reddish, Rui Hachimura also performed really well against the Suns. He had a career-high four steals along with seven points and three rebounds. He continues to be one of the most reliable players off the bench for the Lakers.
- The Blazers may be dealing with injuries but they’re still very much capable of putting up a fight if the Lakers allow them to. They’re hungry to win and would like to snap their losing streak. Look out for Jerami Grant, Shaedon Sharpe and Deandre Ayton to take on the scoring load.
- For the injury report, the Lakers list Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis), Gabe Vincent (knee) Jalen Hood-Schifino (right patella contusion) as out. LeBron James (left calf contusion) is questionable while Anthony Davis (left adductor/hip spasm) and Jaxson Hayes (left ankle sprain) are probable.
- As for Portland, Scoot Henderson (ankle sprain), Robert Williams III (right knee ligament tear), Malcolm Brogdon (left hamstring strain), Anfernee Simmons (recovering from thumb surgery) are out. Ish Wainright (calf strain) is noted as questionable.
You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani