It’s the Blazers and the Lakers…but it doesn’t feel like its the Blazers and the Lakers. This feels like how I felt when I tried to watch The Real World after watching Jersey Shore. Just…different. I’m not sure why either, there is just something missing. Is it the fact that the one time I was forced to keep up with the Kardashians, I saw Lamar Odom cupcaking (go ahead and urbandictionary.com it) with Khloe so bad that I lost ALL respect for him? Maybe. Could it be the mini-hangover/fallout of the Nate/Andre non-story. Meh. Is it that I have Kobe on my fantasy team for the first time and am finally facing up with him facing off against the Blazers? A little. Is it the fact that half of our roster is out? That….thats probably it. I’m struggling with getting all ‘ra-ra-ra BEAT LA’. Not that I don’t want it to happen. Not that the Lakers are not ‘our’ rival (literally since this about as one-sided a rivalry fan wise as you’ve seen). It’s just tough to sit here and talk about how this version of the Blazers can beat the Lakers. Its not impossible, but it is definitely in the ‘really really tough’ category. A lot of things have to fall in place. With a full roster we were facing a challenge with Kobe and company. Now we face a potentially nasty scenario. Although, over the years the Blazers have proven that with their backs against the walls they can do great things. Remember the Boston game last year? Exactly.
The one thing that is firmly working in Portland’s favor: history. Portland’s recent dominance over the Lakers at the Rose Garden should keep the Blazer faithful at the very least hopeful. BEAT LA chants seem to be working as the Blazers have won 8 straight over the Lakers in the RG, with the last L coming on February 23rd 2005. The Blazers started Nick Van Exel, Damon Stoudamire, Ruben Patterson, Zach Randolph and Joel Pryzbilla. Damn indeed. We can stretch this whole ‘Blazers own LA in Portland’ thing a little furthur. Fun fact: Dating back to 2000 the Blazers have won 14 of the last 16 over LA in the RG. And this is with an assortment of teams, so history is on Portland’s side.
Also on Portland’s side: the Lakers come into tonight struggling. And by struggling I mean the Laker kind of struggling, not the real kind of struggling. Yes they are two different things, but ill take a Laker team ‘struggling’. I mean they’ve only won 10 of their last 13, lord knows they have an ugly win (Houston) and lose (at the Clippers) and all of a sudden they are struggling. They will be without Pau Gasol which is good news for our depleted frontline. We’ve struggled with teams with strong frontlines (Kaman/Camby, Z-Bo/M.Gasol) so I’m almost certain that Boom Boom Pau and Bynum would have eaten our souls. They are coming off a loss to the Clippers in which they only managed to put up 91 points, or 4 less than a depleted Blazer squad did against that very same team. Is this paragraph just me trying to muster up so hope…absolutely but stick with me. Kobe has been an absolute murderer this year and we know he likes to do hoodrat things with his friends when he’s in Portland. Always dangerous. Their bench is a bit iffy, but it’s going to take a lot to stop Kobe/Bynum/Odom/Artest.
Keys to the game
Get off to a quick start: This is an absolute must. There is going to be a lot of energy in that building tonight. The Blazers need a lot of energy at the start to get the Rose Garden going and to get the Lakers heads down. They’ve acknowledged their struggles in Portland so a strong start will make them think ‘not this again’. Portland’s going to have to outwork them to win anyways so why not start from the jump.
Don’t get murdered in the paint: We gave up 54 points in the paint to Memphis. We have no shotblocker/shot-alterer/really tall guy who can be a defensive presence. I’m not sure we have the length or size to bother Andrew Bynum. We just have to keep the paint casualties at a minimum. Not-so-fun-fact: The Lakers are 12-2 when Bynum scores 17 or more points. Gulp, indeed.