The Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers is one of the more anticipated one-eight matchups in recent memory. The Lakers have dominated the majority of the regular season, winning the top seed in the Western Conference by a fair margin while the Blazers struggled all year but have been hot since entering the Orlando bubble.
The Lakers should be able to get past the Blazers fairly easily but their backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum pose a unique threat. The challenge of guarding those two All-Stars will be placed on the shoulders of the likes of Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green. Caruso, for his part, emphasized that not one player would be able to stop either of the guards, especially Lillard who has been on fire since the season restarted:
Alex Caurso on guarding CJ/Dame: "I wish there was a one size fit all kind of answer for that. They can do so much. We’re not going to tell any guy on our team to hold them to 20 points. Me, KCP, Danny, we’re going to do our best to pester them." #Lakeshow
— Laurantine (@LoJoMedia) August 17, 2020
Alex Caruso says defending Dame and CJ will have to be a "team effort."
— Christian Rivas (@RadRivas) August 17, 2020
The Lakers may try to trap Lillard, especially in pick and roll actions and force the rest of the Blazers to beat them. That means the team must have crisp rotations as they help and recover to the Blazers’ other dangerous weapons.
Caruso also spoke about the pressure of playing in the first postseason of his career and had this great quote to offer:
“For me, I’ve been having to play in high-pressure situations. I’ve been teammates with LeBron for this whole year. I had to play to get a career for the first two or three years [of my career]…There’s been pressure for me to perform and to perform well for a couple years now. Obviously there’s a different and different goal with this set of games and the pressure that comes with it, but you’ve got one choice: You can either be afraid and fall into the pressure, or you can show up and play basketball, and I’m planning on doing the second one.”
The Lakers are going to need all of their role players to have that same mentality if they’re going to win a championship this year.