LOS ANGELES — The Lakers will finish off their home stand on Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
In actuality, they have a showdown against the Clippers on Tuesday. That game is designated as a Clipper home game but they’ll still be in the comforts of Crypto Dot Com Arena that night. Then on Thursday, the Lakers take on the Chicago Bulls before they embark on a 6-game road trip that will take them away from Los Angeles for nearly two weeks.
Is it really comfortable at their home arena, though? The way they got dumped by the Brooklyn Nets last Friday, it doesn’t seem like it. Are they comfortable anywhere, really? The Lakers are 21-22 and have not acted like an elite team for an extended period of time all season long. Maybe they’ll peak at the end of the season like last year. They just hope that they peak enough to sneak into the postseason; they are currently 10th in the West and would have to win two road games just to get into those playoffs.
A team that is very likely not going to even sniff the postseason is the Blazers. They finally decided to demolish and reassemble after trading Damian Lillard away to the land of cheese.
The problem is that it’s hard to build if the pieces aren’t functional. Robert Williams III, who was acquired after they rerouted Jrue Holiday (he came from the Lillard deal) to Boston, is out for the rest of the season due to a knee injury. Their leading scorer, Anfernee Simons, has been in and out of the line-up; he’s listed as questionable for Sunday night. Their prized rookie, Scoot Henderson, is also questionable due to a nasal contusion. He’s not having a great campaign but he has all the time in the world to figure out the league. Both Simons and Henderson were not available in both November games against the Lakers.
Their high leaper, Shaedon Sharpe, has an adductor strain; he’s also out. And tall glass of water Moses Brown will be out because of his upcoming wrist surgery.
So who do the Blazers have? Deandre Ayton was the real prize, if you will, from that aforementioned Dame Time trade. He is averaging a double-double (13.0 points and 10.6 rebounds) but he’s also only played 25 out of a possible 41 games. He christened himself Dominayton but the dominance happening in Rip City right now is a lot of smoke.
Portland paid Jerami Grant a lot of money to produce and help stabilize the team (21.8 points per) and Malcolm Brogdon (also acquired from the Holiday trade) is doing what he can (15.3 points, 5.2 assists) to steer the ship. Defensive stalwart Matisse Thybulle is another veteran they’ve been counting on. And they also have Jabari Walker (second round pick from ’22) and Toumani Camara (second round pick from last summer that was also in the Dame deal) as part of their youth movement that just can’t seem to stay healthy.
As briefly mentioned earlier, the Lakers and Blazers have already played twice. On Nov. 12, Anthony Davis was nearly unstoppable (30-13-6 and three blocks) in a game the Lakers won by 6 points. Five days later, LeBron James (who did not play in the first game) went for 35 points in a comfortable but otherwise ugly win by the Lakers (each team had 18 turnovers).
The Lakers should win their Sunday match-up on talent alone, especially if Simons or/and Henderson miss the game. The key word is “should.”
We know that the Lakers have been inconsistent all season. If they can just keep it together, then they should walk away with a W. This year, we hardly had to worry about Anthony Davis as he just brings it every contest. But we’d like to see LeBron James focus, especially on the defensive end and away from complaining to the officials. If they can’t make shots then concentrate and make sure the other team doesn’t make shots, either. They’re a capable defensive team; hell. they’re a capable team, period. Yes, the stats show that they have trouble on offense (22nd on offensive rating) but they have all the weapons.
If the Lakers can’t take care of business against a sub-.500 team then it’s just hard to picture them taking care of biz against the upper tier of teams.