Blazers – Lakers

Recap:

*When I said Roy doesn’t need to score a lot of points and just be himself, I wasn’t implying that 6 shots from the floor was enough.

*Pau gave Aldridge a lesson in how to play post offense.

*The Blazers missed 43 shots, and grabbed just 6 offensive rebounds. Not even 15%. LA missed 41 shots and re-collected 14 of those, good for 34%.

*Portland only turned the ball over 13 times, but 6 of those came from Aldridge and Matthews, two guys who really shouldn’t turn the ball over that much. Johnson, Roy and Miller combined for just 3 turnovers between them.

*Batum pretty much did what was needed, in my opinion. Kobe was an inefficient 3/11 with no offensive rebounds. Batum hit some threes on the other end, and finished with 17 on 7/13 shooting.

*The Lakers are really good, and Pau Gasol is the best big man in the game offensively.

The Lakers are the most efficient team in the Western Conference this year, scoring 11 more points per game* than their opponents. LA’s offense is tops in the entire league by a significant margin, so if there’s a “weakness” to this team, it’s on the defensive end. The Laker defense is ranked just 14th in the NBA in giving up points per possession, a stat that calibrates for a team’s pace of play. While the Lakers are favored against anyone in the Staples Center, the Blazers can steal one if they are able to do a few things right.

One (and two): Camby has to stay out of foul trouble. He’ll match up with Pau Gasol, and the Blazers have no one else with a snowball’s chance in hell of stopping the Spanish definition of efficiency. This means that Aldridge can’t let Lamar Odom beat him to the rack consistently, leaving Camby to pick up the leftovers (including some likely fouls). Though he starts at the four, Odom plays more like a small forward, attacking from the outside and occasionally hoisting up threes. In my opinion, Aldridge has to take a step off Odom, daring him to shoot from the outside. The Blazers have a better chance if Odom doesn’t get to the rim and Camby stays on the floor, two things that are partially taken care of by Aldridge’s defense on Odom.

3) Batum has to contain Kobe. This may sound like a ludicrous proposition, but Batum’s defensive game against Durant gives me a little hope. Batum’s strategy involved denying Durantula the ball as many as 30 feet from the basket. Durant did score 28 points, but went just 11/24 from the field and got to the line only 4 times, a long way from his 10.2 attempts per game last season. While it’s impossible to keep Kobe from touching the ball, limiting his touches in scoring positions could go a long way toward his containment. Kobe’s never been the most efficient player around, and Batum’s defensive style may very well encourage him to huck it up from the cheap seats a little more often.

Batum is inevitably going to need help defensively, and Camby can’t be the only one giving it (see number 1). Roy will likely match up with Ron Artest, and I, for one, would love for Artest to take every shot for the Lakers tonight. His career points/field goal attempt is an awful 0.933. This brings me to point 4, Roy needs to help defensively. He should constantly be more worried about Kobe and rebounding than Artest shooting.

Since the Lakers offense is its biggest weapon, my first points revolved around how to defend them. But the Blazers still need to score to win. If Odom guards him, Aldridge has to be able to take advantage of his size, both scoring and rebounding. If Odom matches up with Camby, then Camby should shoot for the all-time offensive rebounding record. Camby isn’t seen as much of an offensive player because he doesn’t score a lot himself, but his offensive rebounds are a huge reason why Portland’s scoring is the fifth most efficient in the NBA.

The rest of the Blazers team should take care of itself. It would be nice if Batum hit some threes, if Miller didn’t shoot turn-around fadeaways from 15, and if Roy simply tries to be Roy, and nothing more. There’s a misconception that Roy needs to score a lot of points for the Blazers to win against the better teams. Roy just needs to be his efficient self, average 1+ points per field goal attempt, and avoid turnovers. In fact, last season the Blazers went in to the Staples Center, lost Roy in the first half to injury, and overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to win. Camby grabbed 7 offensive boards, Aldridge got 3, and the Blazers only turned the ball over 11 times.

So offensively, the Blazers should score enough to win if they limit turnovers and pound LA on the glass. This is going to be much easier if Camby stays out of foul trouble. Thus, the true gamebreakers will come on the defensive end of the floor for Portland.

*Game in this case refers to 100.5 possessions, the league average this season for possessions per game. This controls for pace of play, and puts team stats on a comparable level.

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