The Los Angeles Lakers finally found out who they would be facing in the first round of the NBA playoffs on Saturday after the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Memphis Grizzlies in a play-in game for the right to be the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Blazers battled injuries and inconsistency to get to this point but are among the hottest teams in the league after they had to fight their way through eight seeding games and the play-in game just to return to the postseason. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel admitted on Sunday that the team had a feeling they would be facing the Blazers in the first round and gave them a lot of respect, calling them not “your typical eight seed” to reporters.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel on the Trail Blazers: “Not your typical 8 seed.” pic.twitter.com/EneRZqtPvz
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) August 16, 2020
The Blazers made the Western Conference Finals last year but lost some key pieces in the off-season. Injuries to difference Lakers like Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Rodney Hood accentuated their limited depth and the team has been abysmal defensively all season. Still, with Nurkic and Collins back (though the latter left the play-in game after just seven minutes with a foot injury), and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum capable of exploding for 50 points on any given night, the Blazers are as dangerous of an eighth seed as one may ever see.
Vogel also said Portland had been playing “elite” basketball offensively over the last couple of weeks which is true. The Lakers have prided themselves on the defensive end all season and it’ll be interesting to see how they deal with this new challenge in a playoff setting.
At the very least, it’s good to see that they’re showing respect to their first round opponent and the danger they can pose. Game one will be on Tuesday at 6 PM PST.