The Los Angeles Lakers look to take a commanding 3-1 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. After slogging into the post-season, the team is leveling out and starting to round into form. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are leading the way.
Defense Wins Games
Give or take a few breakdowns, the Lakers have dictated this series with their defense. The Trail Blazers came out of the seeding games scorching teams, but the Lakers have been well-prepared by head coach Frank Vogel. The Blazers offensive rating during the year was 113.2 which was good for third in the league. Inside the bubble they ranked first in the seeding games at 122.5. Since meeting the Lakers, they’re down to last place of the 16 playoff teams at 98.0.
LeBron James makes the Lakers a different team when he’s at the top, and that obviously goes without saying. Their win on Saturday night showed why his scoring puts the opposing defense on their heels. James has been able to escape the Blazers ball pressure and use more post-ups. It also helps to have AD hold it down when he’s getting a rest. LeBron is averaging 34 minutes per game compared to 41 minutes through his first three playoff games in his last appearance in the postseason during the 2017-18 year with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Rondo Still Out
Rondo was cleared to play last week, but the Lakers are taking their time. The 15-year veteran is dealing with back spasms and is doubtful to play. Alex Caruso has assumed much of his duties leading the second unit on both ends. It remains to be seen if we will see Rondo return this series.
Tip-off is scheduled for Monday night at 9PM EST/6PM PST.