One of the reasons why the Lakers (0-1) pursued Steve Nash before anybody this past summer is his keen ability to make things easy and look good on offense. In his debut in purple and gold against the Golden State Warriors last Sunday, Nash not only didn’t disappoint, he was convincing that his addition alone makes the Lakers a far more dynamic and potent offensive team.
Tonight, the Lakers continue to get themselves acclimated with the new offense and new teammates against the Portland Trailblazers (0-0). This is the Blazers’ first pre-season game and are also looking to see what their new faces can do on the court.
Portland features 8 rookies, 3 veterans, a rising star and one of the best power forwards in the game today. Gone are Raymond Felton (sign-and-trade to Knicks), former 2nd overall pick Greg Oden (signed by Dallas) and former franchise player Brandon Roy (unretired to sign with Minnesota).
The Blazers are especially looking to see if rookie Damian Liillard could very well be their starting point guard for years to come. Lillard was the co-MVP of the summer league in Las Vegas where he averaged 26.5 points, 5.3 assists and 4 rebounds per game.
The Lakers won’t have Jordan Hill after being diagnosed with a herniated disc on his back last Monday. However, he doesn’t think his injury is serious at all and is positive it won’t require any surgery. He’ll be reevaluated early next week.
Eventhough he was cleared to participate in limited full scrimmage on Tuesday, don’t expect Dwight Howard to suit up for tonight’s game. But there’s a strong indication that he could very well be ready for opening night against Dallas.
What to Look For
> Other than continuing to learn the new offensive system, look for Mike Brown to focus more on how the team defends in transition. With their youth, the Blazers will look to increase tempo and try to exploit their speed and quickness over the Laker defenders.
> Keep an eye out on how the Laker frontcourt compensate for Hill’s absence around the boards. Robert Sacre should get more minutes to show what he can bring to this team.
> The Laker bench got schooled last Sunday. Despite heading into their 2nd exhibition game, rest assured the coaching staff won’t be giving any of the hopefuls slack as last time. Whoever takes advantage more of their time on the floor tonight should get more minutes against Utah on Saturday.
Matchup of the Game
LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Pau Gasol: Aldridge was the second-leading scorer among power forwards last season posting a 21.7 points per game average at an efficient 51.2% mark. But against the Lakers last season, he averaged 25 points on 50.9 shooting. Facing a quality player this early in pre-season should motivate Gasol even more considering he won’t have Hill and Howard behind him. If Pau comes out aggressive tonight, the Lakers shouldn’t worry too much about Mr. Aldridge.
Keys to the Game
> Strong Start: The Lakers should really make this one of their forte this season simply because they’ll be facing a team that has more youth and mobility more times than not. That way, it should not only make the rest of the game manageable, it won’t give the second unit too much pressure to play at a level they’re not accustomed to.
> Transition Defense: The Blazers aren’t really known for fast-breaks. But that doesn’t mean they won’t push the ball up and down the court. The Lakers are still the better offensive team, so Terry Stotts will make sure his team utilize every advantage they have. We’ll see what kind of defensive scheme Mike Brown wants his guys to work on tonight.
> Better All-around Play From Bench: This is not picking on the second unit. It just so happens that they’ll be a major key for the road to #17 this season. They should take over in the second half once again regardless of the score. This is probably the time when we start to notice which bench player from last year wants to make a difference this season and who wants to make the team.
vs. Portland Trailblazers
Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.
Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario, CA
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN