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Lakers vs. Blazers: 3 Things to Know (4/9/19)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers close out the season against the Portland Trail Blazers.
1) Lakers are looking to close on a high note
As the Lakers enter the final matchup of the year, they will look to expand upon their recent winning ways, having taken six of their last nine games.
Most impressively, the Lakers have gotten back into the win column without several key players. LeBron James and the entire young core — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart — are out, while Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Tyson Chandler have also not played in recent contests.
Instead, the Lakers’ “G League all-stars” have stepped up, namely Alex Caruso, Jemerrio Jones and Johnathan Williams.
Over those last nine games, the Lakers have moved the ball well, ranking third in the NBA in assists (with Caruso leading the way). On the other end, they have been tenacious, posting the league’s sixth-best defensive rating, thanks largely to Caruso, Jones and rim-protecting veteran JaVale McGee.
2) KCP hit a flaming level last time out
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will look to replicate his performance in Sunday’s win over Portland, when he racked up 32 points — including 18 in a blistering fourth quarter.
Despite the presence of reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, KCP was fearless attacking inside. In fact, he shot 11-of-14 on two-pointers, routinely taking the ball to the rim or pulling up from mid-range.
Yet for all of his scoring, he iced the game with a pass. In a one-possession game with less than 20 seconds left, KCP beat his man off the dribble, forced Gobert to rotate over and lobbed to McGee for the dagger alley-oop.
3) Lakers are looking to play spoiler (again)
Having beaten the Clippers and Jazz in their last two games, the Lakers aim to take down another playoff-bound opponent. Portland enters the night still with the potential to leap past Houston for the Western Conference’s third seed.
“I feel like we’re playing out there with a little bit of jealousy,” McGee said after defeating Utah. “We’re kind of mad that [other teams are] in the playoffs and we’re not. So we’re gonna mess up [their] bracket for the hell of it.”
The Blazers have won nine of their last 11 games and have done so with firepower, recording the league’s second-best offensive rating in this stretch.
Of course, Damian Lillard is the leader in this department. An assassin out of the pick-and-roll, Lillard ranks among the NBA’s top 10 in scoring, free throw percentage, foul shots made, 3-pointers made and minutes. He’s one of only four players — including LeBron James — among the league’s top 15 in both points and assists.
And while two-way big man Jusuf Nurkic may be out for the season after a devastating leg injury, the Blazers retain several key weapons. C.J. McCollum is one of the NBA’s masters of the mid-range. Enes Kanter’s offensive rebounding is devastating for opponents. Seth Curry is shooting the league’s third-best 3-point percentage (one spot ahead of his brother).
After opening the season with a loss in Portland, the Lakers will look to pay the Blazers back one more time with a win that would seal a 3-1 series victory.
Lakers: Reggie Bullock (neck stiffness) is questionable. LeBron James (sore left groin), Kyle Kuzma (left foot peroneal tendinitis), Brandon Ingram (thoracic outlet decompression, right arm), Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) and Josh Hart (right knee debridement procedure) are out.
Blazers: Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) is out.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California
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