The regular season kicked off last night, and the Portland Trail Blazers will open tonight at the Rose Garden taking on new-look Los Angeles Lakers.
Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C J.J. Hickson
Lakers Starting 5: PG Steve Nash, SG Kobe Bryant, SF Metta World Peace, PF Pau Gasol, C Dwight Howard
Despite their star-studded starting lineup, the Lakers (0-1) are facing questions about the style of offense coach Mike Brown has opted to run. Known as the “Princeton offense,” L.A.’s latest offensive scheme takes the transition game completely out of the picture — the area that Hall of Fame bound PG Steve Nash thrives most in — and forces the offense to get into its sets each time down the floor. As a result, the Lakers lost in their season opener to the Dallas Mavericks, 99-91, and Nash finished with only nine points and four assists in 34 minutes on the court–his worst stat line in over a decade.
“That style of play [Princeton] will keep every team in the game with you,” Kenny “the Jet” Smith said on Inside the NBA after the game. “And Kobe, Steve Nash and Gasol will make big shots in certain games and squeeze out. But they should beat certain teams by 19-20 points that they will never beat by 19-20 points. They will always be in close games when you’re shooting the ball with eight seconds on the shot clock.”
“Princeton, again, never won an NCAA title.”
But while the Lakers figure out their offensive (and defensive) struggles, the Portland Trail Blazers come prepared with a fully re-vamped coaching staff and front office. With the starting lineup now solidified, the Blazers will look to win games by locking up on the defensive end, getting out in transition and, most importantly, drilling shots from beyond the arc. Tonight, we will see what the
work-in-progress finished product looks like.
What to Watch For
- The Lakers’ new offense means getting into sets every time, which means if run successfully, coach Stotts’ defense should be fail-proof… sort of. If everyone can hold their ground on the defensive end, the Blazers should be able to give L.A. a hard time. Dwight Howard will have a field day with J.J. Hickson and Meyers Leonard (God bless his soul) on the inside, but some great man defense from LaMarcus Aldridge on Pau Gasol, and a decent effort from Wesley Matthews on the Mamba could be enough to give the Blazers the edge tonight.
- Kobe’s playing hurt, but so is Matthews, and I’d take an injured Mamba over most healthy players in the NBA. If the Lakers are going to win, it’ll likely all be on his shoulders, as usual.
- The Blazers and Lakers are almost polar opposites when it comes to age and speed. If Portland’s wings can get out in transition, the Blazers should be able to stick around for awhile.
- The last time these two teams played, ironically in the Blazers’ pre-season opener, Damian Lillard realized he had the speed advantage over Nash and begun to use it to create shots. Will he use that again tonight?