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Lakers vs. Blazers Preview: Can L.A. create separation in the in-season tournament standings?

The Lakers have the chance to potentially seal their fate in the first round of the in-season tournament with a win over the Blazers on Friday.

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

After a three-game home stand, the Lakers will travel back on the road where they will take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. This match will be L.A.’s third In-Season Tournament game of group play, where they currently control their destiny.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers

When: 7 p.m. PT, Friday, Nov. 17

Where: Moda Center

Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet

The Lakers’ perfect record (2-0) in the In-Season Tournament so far has put them on top of the West Group A standings. Thanks to a dominant 27-point victory against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, L.A. leads Utah — who also happen to be undefeated in the in-season tournament — in the point differential tiebreaker by four points.

Los Angeles has the chance to take a big step forward toward sealing their fate by winning against the Blazers on Friday and hoping that the Jazz fall to arguably the hardest opponent of the group, the Phoenix Suns, on the same day.

But if the Lakers somehow lay an egg in Portland and the Jazz upset the Suns, Utah will take the first spot in the standings. There’s also a third scenario where if both the Lakers and Jazz lose on Friday, the point differential will determine who is in first. However, the third scenario is the least ideal for both teams because that would give the Suns (0-1) an opportunity to stay alive in the tournament.

That said, there’s a good chance that the Lakers handle their business on Friday because, for one, they seem extra motivated to win the In-Season Tournament this year and two, they just defeated the same Blazers team less than a week ago. Despite shooting 21.1% from the 3-point line, L.A. dominated Portland by scoring 68 of their 116 points inside the paint.

Even without LeBron James in the lineup, the Lakers pretty much controlled that whole game thanks to a dominant 30-point and 13-rebound performance by Anthony Davis. So at the very least, the purple and gold will enter Moda Center on Friday with some confidence.

Speaking of entering Friday’s in-season tournament game, here are two storylines worth following ahead of that:

What happened to AD

Davis has played in 11 of the Lakers’ first 12 games thus far and he’s been superb in most of those. However, AD had one of his worst games in a Lakers jersey after putting up a stinker of a performance against the Kings on the second night of a back-to-back. Davis just had nine points and rebounds each on 3-9 shooting from the field in 35 minutes. He looked visibly hobbled and fatigued as he didn’t have his usual athletic burst last Wednesday.

Davis then said afterward that his lethargic performance had nothing to do with the hip injury he’s currently dealing with and while it’s still bothering him, the 30-year-old didn’t use it as an excuse. AD also confirmed that he’s going to suit up against the Blazers on Friday.

Maybe it was just really a rough all-around night for AD but given how he performed, it’s now important to mention the amount of minutes (36.0) he’s been playing to begin the year. Davis, who needed to be on the court for 41 minutes to beat the Blazers last Sunday, is ranked 10th in the league in minutes per game.

Both AD and the Lakers need to find a way to lessen his minutes if they want to keep him fresh throughout the season. One way to do that is for the Lakers to avoid cramming their way to victory during the fourth quarter and instead, pounce on their opponents early so that the game is done midway through the last period — just like what happened against the Grizzlies. That’s exactly how the Lakers should play against a struggling and rebuilding Blazers team.

Can the Lakers get right on the road?

The Lakers have only won one out of their six road games so far which is why they should use this opportunity against the Blazers to improve their performance away from home. They’re not going to have many of these winnable games against rebuilding teams to take advantage of and so the purple and gold really need to stack up these types of wins now.

It’s winning games like this that help in the long run, especially if the Lakers want to avoid chasing after a playoff or even worse, a play-in tournament spot down the road. We’ll see if the Lakers can do just that against the Blazers on Friday as they aim to create separation for themselves in the in-season tournament standings.

Notes and Updates:

  • For the Lakers’ injury report, Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis), Gabe Vincent (knee) Jalen Hood-Schifino (right patella contusion) are listed as out. Anthony Davis (left adductor/hip spasm) is probable and LeBron James (left calf contusion) is questionable.
  • The Blazers won’t have Malcolm Brogdon (left hamstring), Robert Williams (torn ligament in right knee), Scoot Henderson (right ankle) and Anfernee Simmons (right thumb surgery) once again.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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