Here is what you need to know before the Lakers take on the Portland Trail Blazers.
After Friday’s loss to Toronto, Kobe Bryant spoke extensively about the challenges of playing in his 20th season and how best to develop L.A.’s young core of talent.
In what has essentially been his rookie season, Julius Randle has nonetheless shined among sophomores. After piling up 18 points and 12 rebounds against the Raptors, he is now second in his class in double-doubles (three) and rebounds (8.4).
Portland is coming off its biggest victory of the season — a 102-91 win over the Clippers on Friday, which snapped a seven-game losing streak. In that game, Damian Lillard went off for 27 points, while Ed Davis (17 points, 15 rebounds) became the first Blazer with 10 offensive boards in six years.
Portland is trotting out a wildly different roster, as only six Blazers returned from last year’s team. Among the departures were five of their top six scorers: LaMarcus Aldridge (23.4 ppg), Wesley Matthews (15.9), Arron Afflalo (10.6), Robin Lopez (9.6) and Nicolas Batum (9.4).
Aldridge signing with San Antonio has left a void in Portland’s frontcourt. The Blazers tally the NBA’s second-fewest touches in the paint (9.9), while also allowing opponents to shoot the second-highest percentage at the rim (55.5).
However, Portland’s backcourt of Lillard and C.J. McCollum has picked up the slack. The duo is combining for 45.3 points per game, which is the second-most of any tandem next to only Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (49.8).
Lillard is the league’s seventh-highest scorer (25.2) and one of its top long-range threats. The 25-year-old is cashing 3.0 3-pointers per game — the second-most in the NBA.
McCollum, meanwhile, has been busy making his early case for the Most Improved Player award. The Lehigh alum averaged just 6.8 points last year, but is now up to 20.1 this season. In fact, he reached at least 15 points in all 14 games so far.
Davis is making his return to Los Angeles after standing out for the Lakers last season. In his lone campaign with the purple and gold, the fifth-year pro averaged career highs in scoring (8.3), rebounds (7.6) and blocks (1.2).
The Lakers are looking to break their five-game losing streak to Portland. Last season, the Trail Blazers swept L.A. for the first time in 11 years.