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Lakers vs. Blazers Preview: Which Laker team is going to show up?

The Lakers need to match the intensity of their opponent every night, especially one that’s desperate to win games like the Blazers will be on Sunday.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers missed the chance to go on a three-game losing streak after losing to a struggling Brooklyn Nets team on Friday. L.A. will look to bounce back against the Portland Trail Blazers, who have been playing well as of late.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers

When: 7 p.m. PT, Jan. 21

Where: Arena

Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet

The Lakers did that thing again where, after just nabbing two commendable wins in a row against high-caliber playoff teams, they proceed to drop one versus a Brooklyn Nets team that has lost nine out of its last 10 games. It’s hard to say that this loss was a surprise because frankly, Los Angeles continues to set the bar for the worst loss of the season every other week.

What’s so frustrating about Friday night’s loss to the Nets was how the Lakers just managed to collapse in the third quarter after starting the period with an 11-point lead and dropping 68 points in the first half. You’d think that at that point, the rejuvenated starting lineup that had played superb together in the previous two games had found that spark they’ve been missing for quite some time.

The Lakers controlled the first half so well that it was fair to think that the only way the Nets could win was if they put together their best second-half performance of the season. And that’s exactly what the Lakers allowed them to do. Brooklyn put up 38 points in the third quarter alone and outscored Los Angeles by 22 by exposing the starting unit’s defense — the same problem that led Darvin Ham to move away from it in the first place.

Even worse, L.A. didn’t bother covering up their flaws with their energy and effort on both ends. LeBron James missed one layup attempt after another while Anthony Davis — who had 17 points in the first half after going a perfect 7-7 in the field — only had nine points combined in the third and fourth quarters.

The purple and gold shot just 34.1% from the field in the third quarter after hitting at a 53.1% clip in the first half. The Nets simply punched them back hard in the second half and the Lakers didn’t bother to get back up and fight back. Imagine getting called out and embarrassed like this by Nets big man Nic Claxton:

The bottom line is that this starting lineup the Lakers went back to may have a high ceiling, especially on offense, but that doesn’t mean it’s not flawed and easily exposable. The perimeter defense is such a concern as we just saw Cam Thomas effortlessly drop 33 points.

The Lakers’ bench unit was pretty much nonexistent after scoring just 18 points before garbage time and 12 were from Jarred Vanderbilt, who hit two three-pointers he normally doesn’t convert.

The issues this Lakers team is dealing with can be fixed depending on whether they make a move by the deadline but for now, their main concern should be finding ways to avoid losing winnable games like the one last Friday. They’re now 9-5 against teams below .500, which is a big reason why they’re in 10th place in the Western Conference standings.

The Lakers’ next opponent, specifically the Blazers, is another team with a below .500 record. The biggest question is which Laker team is going to show up on Sunday? The one that just defeated the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder or the one that just lost to a Nets squad that entered Friday’s match having lost nine out of their last 10?

It’s unfortunate to talk about the Lakers like this midway through the season but alas. Maybe this is just who they are. Hopefully it’s the version that plays hard from start to finish that shows up on Sunday against one of the worst teams in the league.

Notes and Updates:

  • The Blazers (12-29) are currently on a two-game winning streak and just defeated the Nets and Pacers. The Lakers have already defeated them twice this season but Portland is healthier this time around. Look out for Jerami Grant and Malcolm Brogdon, who combined for 67 points in their victory against Indiana.
  • For the Lakers injury report, Cam Reddish (left knee soreness) has now been upgraded to probable after missing the last three games. Anthony Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy) is now marked as questionable as well as LeBron James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy) and Taurean Prince (left knee soreness). As expected, Gabe Vincent (left knee surgery) is out.
  • As for the Blazers, Anfernee Simmons (illness) and Scoot Henderson (contusion) are questionable while Sheldon Sharpe (lower abdominal strain), Robert Williams III (right knee ligament tear) and Moses Brown (left wrist fracture) are out.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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