By AMICO HOOPS STAFF
While there are a pair of games on October 16th, tip-off day and a slew more on the 17th, the Los Angeles Lakers don’t get started until Thursday the 18th against Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center.
Heading into Portland is a tough opening test for the new-look Lakers. The Lakers have lost ten straight to the Portland Trail Blazers, so they are definitely going to go into this game with a chip on their shoulder. The computer models are projecting that the Lakers will come in as 3-point underdogs to Lillard and the rest of the P-Town crew. Portland also looks like they will end up somewhere around -147 on the money line. If you want to learn more about this, get an excellent crash course in basketball betting; click here to learn to bet on sports.
There isn’t a team in the NBA with as much hype surrounding them right now as the Los Angeles Lakers. Magic pulled off some fantastic magic over the last few seasons. The Lakers signed the most controversial and coveted point guard in Lonzo Ball, picked up Luke Walton and a slew of young talent to build on. And now Lebron James and Javale McGee are in the mix, and the team has a reliable bench in Rajon Rondo, Lance Stevenson, and Kyle Kuzma. The firepower is there, but will they be cohesive enough as a team to take out a solid Blazers squad in hostile territory?
Not Much Has Changed For Rip City
There wasn’t a whole lot of change for the Trail Blazers this offseason. The same core of players that we saw finish third in the West. Despite getting ousted by the Pelicans in head-hanging fashion in the first round, this is a team that knows how to play together. Of the last three times, this Blazers team has met with Lebron [with the Cavaliers], they’ve come away victorious twice. That said, the last time around, even though the Blazers won 113-105, the Trail Blazers could not find an answer for James, who put up 35 points.
This could very well be the case again. Aminu is going to have a hard time guarding Lebron on an island. With Jusuf Nurkic’s help, they can slow down King James; let’s not forget that Portland boasted one of the regular season’s elite defenses. But now that McGee will be posting up down low, any help on Lebron will leave a hole on defense that the Lakers will be able to exploit. The Lakers can score at will, even before all of the recent upgrades they were putting up 109 points on the road, but the defense will be the difference maker here. Over the last ten meetings, the Blazers have held the Lakers to an average of just 97 points, while scoring 108. But the last three meetings have tightened up with the Trailblazers winning by an average margin of 101-105.
It Will Come Down To ‘D’
Road defense has been the Achilles heel of the Purple and Yellow for throughout the last campaign. They gave up 113 points per game on average. It could all change with guys like McGee, James, and Stephens on the court. But each of the Blazers starting five are ranked in the top 50 for defensive statistics. Lillard is No. 15, McCollum is No. 30, Aminu is No. 48, and Nurkic is No. 50.
This clash between long-time Western Conference rivals will be one of the most interesting opening games of the NBA season. We get to see what this new Lakers squad is made of in a game of pounding, physical basketball.
Prediction: This is going to be a close game. It’s tough to be the Zers at home, but the Lakers will most likely cover the spread if it stays larger than three points.