Saturday, February 6, 2010

Trail Blazers vs. Lakers: Game 53

The Trail Blazers (30-22) look to continue their dominance, in Portland, over the hated Lakers (38-13). Since the middle of the 2004-05 season, Portland has won nine consecutive meetings against Los Angeles in the Rose Garden, many of those wins coming short handed, which is what the Blazers will have to deal with again tonight. Already known out for tonight's game were Outlaw, Przybilla, and Oden, but two players, Bayless and Roy, were listed as questionable. Word has came out this morning that Jerryd Bayless is going to give it a go and will start, yet the hamstring of Brandon Roy just refuses to heal, causing him to miss 12 of the team's last 13 games. One advantage Portland has over L.A. is the fact the Lakers played last night, losing a high-scoring affair to Denver, which forced them to arrive in Portland very early this morning and play on the second night of a back to back.
With no Roy against arguably the best team in the NBA, others must answer the bell. No player has risen to the challenge better than LaMarcus Aldridge lately. Known for taking his game to a higher level post All-Star break, Aldridge has given Blazer fans a sneak preview of whats to come. In the month of February, LaMarcus has been putting up averages of 24 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and shooting 52.8% from the field. Talented as they may be, the Laker front-court is soft. If you hit them in the mouth first, they won't hit back, rather seeking the nearest official to cry to. If the L-Tran is in "beast mode" tonight, he could be enough to carry the Blazers to their 31st win on the season. Jumpers are fine once in a while, but work for great post position and take it straight into the chest of the Laker defenders.
The key to beating the Lakers, on the defensive side of the ball, is to simply let Kobe try and do it all. Teammates have already came out recently, speaking in frustration about the lack of touches they are receiving, because Kobe was trying to score too much in hopes of becoming the Lakers all-time leading scorer. In their 107-98 loss in Portland earlier this year, Kobe got his 32, but on 37 shot attempts. Martell Webster did an admirable job defensively on Kobe, which will earn him a second chance to D him up again, but lets not forget who the Trail Blazers have this time around, Nicolas Batum. The addition of Nico allows another fresh body to swarm Bryant continuously throughout the game. I hope Coach Nate uses both Marty and Nico both to check Kobe, in hopes the different defenders give him a different look each time down the court, so Kobe will not be able to figure either one out.
Feeling down about Roy being out against the Lakers? Don't, because the team doesn't and they are used to doing this without their franchise. Do not forget, we crushed L.A. last month with really only seven players (Pendergraph played, but only five minutes). There was no Greg, Joel, Travis, Nico, Rudy, Blake, or Mills and Aldridge only scored eight points in that match. All we need in order to secure a win tonight are players to step up. Thankfully for the Blazers Rudy is coming into his own, Martell is coming off of a 5-5 night from I-5, Aldridge is looking like a true 2nd option, and Dante has the mid-range jumper on lock right now. This is the Blazers versus Lakers. If we had to suit up a D-League team against L.A., there is no doubt in my mind they would be up for the challenge; it's just what this franchise does.
To come away with our 10th straight win over the Lakers in the Rose Garden, Portland must be the aggressors by attacking the soft, Laker big men, playing suffocating defense, and running at every opportunity. As mentioned earlier, Los Angeles is playing on the second night of a back to back and they are not a young squad either. Once the rebound or turnover is secure, go! Without Brandon, running is a strength of nearly every other player on this team and there is nothing an already rabid fan base loves more than seeing the team run and finish strong on the break. Also, it can not be overstated enough, but keep going to the goal! On January 8th, Portland made good with the charity stripe a staggering 39 times. Now, I doubt we reach that number again, but we will need at least 20 attempts to get the job done tonight.
Do the Lakers have a good shot to win tonight? No, they have a great chance at finally breaking the curse. Although they are tired from playing last night, Pau Gasol is back healthy in the lineup for L.A., who was M.I.A. the last go-round and they don't have to deal with Brandon Roy, who simply was a Laker killer last month, scoring 32 points on 9-11 shooting, handing out 6 assists, and pulling down 5 rebounds. One has to wonder, if L.A. can't get the job done tonight, will they ever be able to win in the Rose Garden? Portland needs to keep the Laker role players in check, mainly Brown and Fisher, as well as limit second-chance opportunities from a very tall Laker front-court. It will be neck and neck the entire way, but watch out for Rudy Fernandez tonight to also come back with big momentum plays to keep the Lakers at bay.
Game 53 Prediction: Trail Blazers 95 Lakers 92
Post-Game Thoughts
The season from hell continued last night. With everything that has gone wrong to date, as fans, we still could hang our hat on the fact we could still Beat L.A. at the Garden and extend our streak over them, sort of a shining light in a dark, dim season. Well, not only did we lose, we got walloped, humiliated, and embarrassed. Probably the most frustrating aspect of the game was seeing the Laker players wanting that game more than we did, essentially grabbing every single loose ball. My guess is the team heard Kobe was taking the game off and mentally let down, but who knows? The team isn't the only one to blame though. The reason the Rose Garden has been a thorn in the Lakers side has been the raucous crowd, chanting "BEAT L.A." at every waking moment, yet the crowd struggled to muster up one decent "BEAT L.A." chant all night long. With a sore throat and cold, I shouldn't be the loudest person in my section.
After a scorching 1st quarter, running up 29 points and a six point lead, the shooting eye deserted the Blazers as they only scored 53 points the entire way. There could have been more, but I counted at least two threes, one from Webster and the other from Blake, that literally rimmed in and out. Webster's was incredibly painful as it could have pushed the lead up to 12 and really got the crowd into it, so in a sense, you could say, "It's just not your night." Personally, that attitude is a cop out. If your jumper isn't falling, get to the basket, as there are other ways to get yourself back into the game. Once again, Portland got dominated in the paint, this time 48-22. It wasn't until garbage time that we actually took the ball to the cup. Bayless finally got aggressive, maybe his thigh bruise and bum ankle were still bothering him, late in the 4th and dissected the Laker D.
How the team doesn't get up for the biggest game of the year is beyond me, but no stat tells the story better than rebounding. L.A. murdered us on the glass, 47-30, including a 12-2 advantage on the offensive glass, which resulted in well over 20 second chance points for the Lakers. Without our main offensive weapon in Roy, we have been prided ourselves on second-chance points to this point, but when you are only able to get two points off of offensive rebounds, it is going to be a long offensive night because our offense isn't based off of movement, rather isolation. Lamar Odom himself had 22 rebounds. It is a shame when one player nearly out-rebounds your entire team. LaMarcus was on such a rebounding tear lately, averaging 11 in the month of February, only was able to bring in 5 rebounds, Juwan 7, and Martell 2. Your starting front court must be more active than that.
Quite possibly the most frustrating aspect about this game is there were no silver linings. No one played well or even remotely came close to performing up to their capabilities. There wasn't even a highlight reel play to go back and watch in awe and appreciation. To make matters worse, Brandon Roy has been ruled out through the All-Star break with no real return date in site. The team and fans simply can not feel sorry for themselves, because no one in the NBA is going to feel sorry for them when its game time. Opposing teams are like sharks, and without Brandon Roy, they can smell the blood in the water. This is an extremely important time in the season for the blazers. They must rally and get resilient and string together some wins. With OKC and Phoenix being the last two games before the All-Star break, we must get one win and not head into the long weekend on a three-game losing streak. So I challenge not only the players to wake up for Tuesday's game but the fan base to. They feed off of our energy and we need to get off our own pity party and cheer like its the last Blazer game we'll ever be able to attend.
Official Game Photos
Box Score


  1. The Blazers could catch LA flat and uninspired. They certainly looked that way against Denver. And there's plenty of talk about Kobe sitting out some games to rest.