There have been rumblings across the NBA community that the Portland Trail Blazers could send the Lakers packing in the first round of the Playoffs. Portland is coming off of a terrific stretch of games during the seeding schedule and has been playing with playoff-like intensity for some time now. On the other hand, the Lakers just ended their stretch of seeding games by going 3-5 while looking rather human.
Is there reason to be concerned that the Lakers could potentially lose in the first round of the playoffs after finally making it back to the big stage? We don’t believe so, and here’s 3 reasons why you shouldn’t either.
3. The Lakers are Going in Healthy
LA looked uninspired during the seeding games in Orlando, which sent analysts and basketball “experts” running to get off of the Lakers bandwagon. But the truth is that there was no reason to play at 100% in games that had no impact on their playoff position, especially now that home-court advantage isn’t a thing.
Given that they had such a large advantage in the standings, the Lakers instead focused on integrating their new pieces in Waiters and Smith while keeping their stars healthy. A fully rested LeBron will be a nightmare in the playoffs, and even Rajon Rondo has received the go-ahead from the medical staff to return. While he is unlikely to play in Game 1, having him back makes the Lakers that much more dangerous.
2. Portland Looks Exhausted
The only potential cause for concern in this series would be that Portland has already been playing with playoff intensity and will come in ready to play hard. However, all of those close games have taken a toll on the Blazers as well, as evidenced by their inability to close out the Memphis Grizzlies in their play-in game.
Damian Lillard has averaged around 42 minutes per game in the bubble thus far and has been phenomenal, even winning the Orlando bubble MVP Award for his efforts. But he alone won’t be able to lead a diminished Blazers squad past a fresh Lakers team. To compare, LeBron has only averaged about 31 minutes per game and has played in two fewer contests than Lillard. This all points towards a dominant series from the King and company.
1. Portland Has No Answer for LeBron and AD
Health and rest are two obvious benefits that the Lakers have going for them, but they don’t equal the biggest advantage that LA has over Portland: two players named LeBron James and Anthony Davis. There is a reason that the Lakers finished the season with the top record in the West, and those two had a lot to do with it.
Portland has Lillard and McCollum leading the charge, which will definitely be a challenge. There are certain players that you can never fully stop, and Lillard is one of them. However, the Lakers have enough wing defense to at least slow them down a bit while Portland has no real answer for the duo of LeBron and Davis. Portland finished the regular season with the 4th worst defense and didn’t look much better in the seeding games in Orlando. LA, on the other hand, was a top 5 defensive team and will be able to match up much better on that side of the ball. Carmelo Anthony has been Portland’s best wing defender in Orlando and will most likely match up against LeBron at times in the series. That should tell you all you need to know.
Had this series taken place back in April like it was supposed to, no one would even be questioning if the Lakers had a problem on their hands in the first round. But sports tend to have short term memory and will only account for what you’ve done lately.
Portland might win a game or possibly two, but this series won’t be as close as some may want you to think. The Lakers were already one of the most dangerous teams in Orlando. Giving them the chance to use the underdog mentality just made them even deadlier.
Game 1 vs Blazers: August 18th at 6 p.m. PT on TNT