Trail Blazers @ Lakers Game 80 Preview
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  1. DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 04/10/2010 11:57 PM

    After coming off arguably the most intense games of the season, which saw Portland (48-31) drop one they couldn't afford to against Dallas, they must quickly compose themselves with the defending champion and potential first-round opponent Los Angeles Lakers (56-23). The two teams split two early games in the Rose City this year, Portland winning the first, 107-98, behind Roy's 32 points on only 11 shots, while Los Angeles finally got the monkey off their backs, defeating the Blazers in the RG, 99-82, without the services of Kobe Bryant. Speaking of Mr. Bryant, head coach Phil Jackson has rested his star the past two games in hopes of getting his legs back for the playoffs. With their win last night against the Wolves, L.A. clinched home court throughout the Western Conference and really is only jockeying with Orlando right now. The $1 million question now remains, will Kobe get another day off? *Edit* Kobe Expected To Play Against Portland

    If there was one positive which came out of Friday's debacle, it was the fire and composure LaMarcus Aldridge showed. Normally when someone is fired up, they let their emotion get the better of them but LA was able to rise above it all and simply focus on hoops. I can guarantee you each game the rest of the way is going to feel like a playoff-type game, so the team has a couple practice games to get accustomed to playing under control, regardless of how they feel the game is being called. With teams begging anyone other than Roy to beat them, seen by help-side defenders sagging into the paint and always having two players locked onto Roy, someone else is going to have to step up outside of Aldridge. In the month of April, Aldridge is putting up 22.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, all above his season averages. With defenses keyed on them, who will step up and become that third scorer Portland is going to need to beat L.A.? I think a key stat will be if the Trail Blazers can get 60 combined points from three players.

    Regardless of whether Bryant plays or doesn't, the key to beating the Lakers is to neutralize Lamar Odom. When he is playing the point forward, setting up teammates, grabbing rebounds, and hitting open jumpers, their squad is nearly unbeatable. In their last contest against Portland, Odom completely dominated the glass, gobbling up 22 boards like they were gummy bears. Now, I doubt Odom is able to do that much damage again on the glass, as the Camby-Man now mans the paint for the red and black, but none the less, Marcus can't do it all by himself. Juwan, Batum, and LaMarcus all need to make rebounding a priority. Los Angeles was able to manufacture 13 extra shot attempts, which was the difference in a fairly even game otherwise statistically. With Bynum out, Odom has been the starting power forward, meaning he'll be matched up on Aldridge. L-Train is going to have to make Odom work on defense, hopefully taking away some of his energy in other facets of the game.

    What will swing this game in either team's favor will be the play of the second units. As mentioned, Bynum is still out with an injury, moving the Lakers best reserve, Odom, to the starting lineup. Most fans and media correlate the Lakers recent struggles, three wins in their last eight games, directly to the lackluster play of their bench. Howard has been solid for the Trail Blazers, Bayless looked a little bit better against Dallas, and Rudy hit three pretty huge three-pointers, but can they build upon that success and take the momentum gained against Dallas with them on the road in a hostile environment? On paper, I'll take our bench over the likes of Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Josh Powell, Jordan Farmar, and Shannon Brown, but games aren't played on paper. Most likely we'll see the two, inconsistent benches play to a standstill, but if one outshines the other, it will be the deciding factor in the outcome of the game.

    Even though the Lakers got embarrassed at home on national television against the Spurs, they hold the NBA's 2nd best home record at 33-6, and I don't think Portland will be giving L.A. their 7th home loss on Sunday. L.A. knows this is one of the tougher Western Conference's in recent memory and with the last week of the NBA schedule starting tomorrow, the time in which to turn the proverbial switch on is quickly vanishing so look for them to come out with a purpose tomorrow. Although we dislike them more than they us, L.A. hasn't been living under a rock over these past couple of weeks. Portland could very well be their first round opponent, especially after the Spurs stunned the Nuggets tonight, and they'll want to thwart any Trail Blazer confidence early and often. With the West being so tough, the Lakers will want as quick of a first round as possible and if they do match up with us, the series starts Sunday. I hope I'm wrong, but the Lakers message will be loud and clear to the Trail Blazers about how tough its going to be to get the one win they'll need to to advance in the playoffs. As much as it makes me want to puke...

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