Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers NBA Playoffs Preview

NBA Playoff preview: Los Angeles Lakers Portland Trail Blazers

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2013, while the Portland Trail Blazers will be making their seventh-straight NBA playoff appearance. This will be the 12th NBA playoff meeting between the Lakers and the Trail Blazers.

NBA Playoffs Preview: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Frontcourt Los Angeles Lakers’ Dominant Forwards

The Los Angeles Lakers have a distinct advantage over the Trail Blazers. This is especially true for the forward position. Anthony Davis is averaging 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game. LeBron James is averaging 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 10.2 assists, and 1.2 steals.

The Trail Blazers also have some good forwards with Carmelo Anthony and Zach Collins. In the 2019-20 NBA season, Anthony is averaging 15.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Collins is averaging 7.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. Unfortunately, Collins will be out for Game 1 which would mean Hassan Whiteside could be inserted. However, by doing that the Trail Blazers lose their advantage in the bench.

In comparison, Lakers center JaVale McGee’s season averages are low. He is averaging 6.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game. Compare this to Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkić, who is averaging 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.0 blocks per game in the 2019-20 NBA season. Nurkić played a big role in the Trail Blazers playoff-clinching win over the Memphis Grizzlies with 22 points and 21 rebounds.

Both teams also know how to rebound the ball with the Lakers ranked ninth and the Trail Blazers ranked 12th.

Advantage – Los Angeles Lakers

Backcourt Damian Lillard the NBA Bubble MVP

It is not clear who will be starting for the Lakers in the backcourt. However, Danny Green, a two-time NBA Champion, and three-time NBA Finalist is likely one option.

He is averaging 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals this season. The other likely starter in the backcourt is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He is averaging 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists.

The Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum is averaging 22.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists. Damian Lillard is Portland’s best player and is averaging 30.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.1 steals per game this season. It is clear who has the better backcourt.

Advantage – Portland Trail Blazers

Bench Hassan Whiteside is the X-Factor

One of the Trail Blazers’ biggest weaknesses and possible problem in the playoffs is their bench. They were last in the bubble in points per game according to stats.nba.com. They were also last in points per game in the entire 2019-20 NBA season.

The Lakers have the 11th best bench in the NBA. They also have the 12th best bench in the NBA bubble. They have some experienced players that have won and have been in the NBA Finals. Dwight Howard is averaging 7.5 points and 7.3 rebounds and will be a valuable contributor to the team. Rajon Rondo is another great player averaging 7.1 points per game but will be out Game 1 and his availability for the rest of the series is still up in the air.

Lastly, players like Rondo, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Alex Caruso might challenge Green and Caldwell-Pope for the starting guard spots.

For the Trail Blazers, their main player off the bench is Whiteside. Whiteside is averaging a double-double with 15.5 points, and 13.5 rebounds per game. He will be an asset for Portland but he is likely to start in Game 1 after Collins suffered an injury.

Yes, the Trail Blazers are last in bench points. However, if Whiteside comes off of the bench and Nurkic plays well, they will have a chance. Remember, the bench shortens when the playoffs begin and Whiteside is the best bench player of both teams.

Advantage – Portland Trail Blazers

Intangibles LeBron James Is the Reigning Assists Champion

The intangibles for each team are the unselfish plays that are not seen in the scoresheet. It is also about helping other players find their way into the game and making them successful each and every game.

Looking at assists per game, the Trail Blazers are last with 20.6 assists per game. While the Lakers are 10th with 25.4 assists per game according to stats.nba.com. A lot of that discrepancy is due to the fact that they score a lot of their points off of isolation plays from Lillard and McCollum.

The Lakers are a much better team in that aspect as they are 10th in the NBA in team assists. James played a big role in that, averaging over 10 assists per game.

However, the Trail Blazers have a massive advantage in hustle stats. They average 26.6 points per game through screen assists according to stats.nba.com. This is good for second in the NBA.

The Lakers are ranked 23rd with 19.5 points created via screen assists. The Trail Blazers also get more contested shots ranked 14th and the Lakers are ranked 25th. However, the Lakers are better with deflections as they are ranked fifth compared to the Trail Blazers, who are ranked 26th. Lastly, looking at box-outs, the Lakers have a clear advantage. The Trail Blazers are 27th in box-outs while the Lakers are 12th in box-outs.

Advantage – Los Angeles Lakers

Coaches Frank Vogel, Two-Time NBA All-Star Head Coach

This is another statistic that is hard to judge. Frank Vogel, head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, has been to the NBA All-Star Game as the head coach in 2014 and 2020. Furthermore, when he was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers, they made the Eastern Conference Finals in both 2013 and 2014. This record is comparable to Terry Stotts of the Trail Blazers.

This is what Davis said of Vogel according to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.

“He got on all of us — me, LeBron, everyone. A lot of coaches don’t get on their superstars, but he does,” Davis says. “What’s impressed me the most is that even when we win, he holds us accountable. When a team sees a coach getting on LeBron or me, the other guys respect him more and know they’ll be held accountable too.”

While Stotts never made the NBA All-Star Game, this will be his seventh NBA playoff appearance in a row. He has also been the head coach of the Trail Blazers since 2012. This includes making the Western Conference Finals in 2019, where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.

Credit should also be given to Stotts for allowing Lillard to shoot from half-court. This is what he said according to Isaiah De Los Santos of blazersedge.com.

“Before this whole pandemic, I think it was about a month before it happened, he was shooting it pretty easy from half-court and asked, ‘Coach, what you think when I come down and do this?’ I didn’t say yes, I didn’t say no, but I’m definitely prepared for it.”

This is another tough choice. However, unlike Stotts, Vogel has made an appearance into the NBA All-Star Game as the head coach and has appeared in one more Conference Finals then Stotts.

Advantage – Los Angeles Lakers

NBA Playoffs Preview Prediction – Los Angeles Lakers in Seven Games

This is going to be an intense playoff series as the Lakers have the edge in three of the five factors. The Trail Blazers certainly have a chance to win the series as they went 6-and-2 to end their season in the bubble. They then went and won against the Grizzlies to clinch their seventh-straight playoff berth.

It would not be shocking if the Trail Blazers are able to accomplish the upset. The Lakers have struggled in the bubble going 3-and-5. However, the Lakers won the 2019-20 NBA season series two games to one.

The Lakers are dealing with some injury problems as James, Davis, and Rondo are day-to-day. Also, the Lakers do not have Avery Bradley, who is one of their best defensive players. The Trail Blazers though have more injuries/absences as Caleb Swanigan, Trevor Ariza, and Rodney Hood are all out. Also, Nassir Little and Collins (who is out for Game 1) are day-to-day.

A big concern for the Lakers is that they have been the second-worst team in the Orlando bubble offensively. Furthermore, facing a red-hot team like the Trail Blazers, who are first in offense in the Orlando bubble, could be too much for the Lakers to handle.

That is until one looks at the defense of both teams. For the 2019-20 NBA season, the Trail Blazers have the fourth-lowest defensive rating. The Lakers are third in the league. The Lakers’ defense will play a big role in their success in this series. The winner of this series will face the winner of the Houston RocketsOklahoma City Thunder series.

Main Photo
Embed from Getty Images


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.