Game Details: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA. 6:30 PM. TV: KGW. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’3″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8″, France), PF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7″, Alabama), C LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11″, Texas)
Projected Los Angeles Starting Lineup: PG Derek Fisher (#2, 6’1″, Arkansas – Little Rock), SG Kobe Bryant (#24, 6’6″, Lower Merion High School), SF Ron Artest (#15, 6’7″, St. John’s), PF Lamar Odom (#7, 6’10″, Rhode Island), C Pau Gasol (#16, 7′, Spain)
A week ago, I wouldn’t have thought the Blazers had a prayer of winning this game. They were still playing their game of looking fantastic one night against Miami and then losing to Charlotte the next night. They’ve already lost to the Lakers twice this year, once in a blowout and one that could have been a win if they had scored even once in the last 4:20 of regulation. Plus, this isn’t the time of year you want to play the Lakers—the two-time defending champions like to mail it in for four months and then turn it on in March, and, well, it’s March now. LA has lost only once since the All-Star break, to Miami.
Andrew Bynum has been suspended for tonight’s game after his flagrant foul on Michael Beasley, which leaves the Lakers’ front line depleted and consisting only of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom…oh, wait…that’s just as bad. Nate McMillan is starting Gerald Wallace again tonight, but Marcus Camby will need to play heavy minutes against that frontcourt, and will need to be as physical as he’s ever been on the boards. Having Wallace in the lineup should also create some interesting matchup scenarios for Portland.
I don’t need to run down the Lakers’ roster. You know them all. Kobe Bryant is kind of good. Derek Fisher you don’t want to leave open for three, especially late. Ron Artest is having a down year, but he can still be a formidable defender when he wants to be. Shannon Brown provides the bulk of the scoring off the bench. They’re the two-time defending champions, coached by arguably the best coach in NBA history, and they know how to play together. The Blazers match up as well as anyone against them, but as we saw a few weeks ago, even if the Blazers are the better team on the floor for 44 minutes, that won’t be enough. A win tonight isn’t absolutely necessary, but it would go a long way as a confidence booster.