Lakers, Blazers Pre-Thoughts


Hold on, it’s going to be a big one.

No, actually, we aren’t going to go there. I’m not going to hype this game up to playoff levels just because its the hated Lakers. Yes, we might witness a glorious grudge match and see LaMarcus Aldridge knock Lamar Odom’s block off once and for all, but more importantly, the Blazers need a win to keep up with the surging Utah Jazz (11 victories in a row).

So, to avoid hyperbole, we’re going to get right down to it. To win, the Blazers need to score, and they need that scoring from more than just B-Roy and LMA. They need Blake and Rudy to nail their 3’s. They need Joel to get putback points. They need Travis to do good Travis things, not bad Travis things. They need Batum to be aggressive and they even need Channing Frye to make a jumper or two (he will be left open). If it sounds like I’m describing a perfect offensive game, I’m not. I’m describing at least 90% of a perfect offensive game. The other 10% the Rose Garden crowd can take care of.

This isn’t to disparage the Blazers, but the Lakers are that good when they are on top of their game. Of course, they could come out flat on the road and let Portland jump all over them, but then nothing we write about has any bearing when that happens. And trust me, it won’t. Even if the Lakers are shooting 40% through the first 16-17 minutes and the Blazers are up 15, it will still be a game. The reason I said earlier that Portland needs close to a perfect offensive game is because I don’t think they are ready defensively to defend an elite team for 48 minutes.

This is not just because Oden is out (man, hate to see stories like this), even though that severely limits the mistake the perimeter guys can make on the weird triangle rotations of L.A. (Channing Frye isn’t stopping anyone on the drive). I don’t think the Blazers are disciplined enough to avoid helping too much that their man gets open for a triple. There’s always a chance that Nic will have the defensive game of his life and bother Kobe, that Travis won’t leave Ariza open in the corner or that Bayless can hamper Fisher or Farmar into a few backcourt turnovers but it’s probably not going to happen, and certainly not for all those guys in the same game.

The best way to watch this game is with low expectations. Enjoy the Garden crowd getting riled up by Kobe getting star calls and LMA trading elbows with Odom, but never get comfortable, no matter what the lead could be. That’s how I approached the Celtics game in late December after the debacle in Boston and its now one of the highlights of the season. Plenty of people are going to use this game as a barometer for Portland’s progress, but we know what these teams are at this point in the season. We know Portland is capable, but they have a lot standing in their way to a win.

Just so you know, if things fall in place, SJ and I will be watching this game in some swanky Vegas sports bar enjoying friendly trash talk with the local Laker fans. We’ve got some big changes to the site coming up in the next week, including a move to a new network and the start of live blogs for the playoff run. As a heads up though, content might be slow for the next three days.