The Los Angeles Lakers travel to Portland on Wednesday to face the Portland Trail Blazers. It will be the third meeting between the two squads this season, with Portland winning both previous games.
Once again, we will likely see a high-scoring affair between two of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. In the last game between the two teams, the Lakers crumbled in the second half as their offense became too stagnant and ineffective.
In order to beat the Blazers, the Lakers will need a consistent effort. No lead is safe against Portland as their star-studded backcourt has the potential to put up points in a hurry.
While Larry Nance, Jr. will likely get a few more minutes in his second game back from injury, the Lakers will be without their other prized sophomore. D’Angelo Russell is still recovering from knee and calf injuries. Considering how the Lakers have generally looked without Russell (3-11 without the point guard) and the success he showed at least in spurts against Damian Lillard, this is a tough blow to weather.
The biggest thing to look for is how Luke Walton will make up for Russell’s absence. Against the Mavericks, Brandon Ingram got the starting job as the de facto point guard. While Ingram has shown an unexpected ability to run an offense, asking him to do so against tougher opponents in a lineup that does not feature much spacing or secondary playmakers is a tough task. Case in point: the 49-point loss against Dallas.
Walton may opt to keep Ingram in the starting lineup as he continues to develop the latter’s playmaking skills. But it’s a tough task for Ingram to defend Lillard on one end and initiate offense on the other. Walton may find it beneficial to start Jordan Clarkson (a player in need of his own development as a playmaker, seemingly having regressed in that department) or Jose Calderon if he wishes to keep the bench unit intact.
Winning in Portland comes rarely for the Lakers and without Russell, it will be an even tougher task. But this is an unpredictable team, capable of losing by massive margins to bad teams or winning miraculously against some of the best opponents in the NBA. The only guarantee is that there will be plenty of scoring.
The game will be aired on ESPN with tip-off set for 7:30 PM PST.