The Lakers have been in a transitional period for a number of years now. Having not won a Championship since 2010 and find themselves firmly in fourth in the Pacific division. They’re without Kobe. Without Nash. And leading point scorer Pau Gasol has been playing with a strained left foot for the most part of the season.
Can they beat a team which has come off the back of an 11-game winning streak? That question probably doesn’t need answering.
LA’s one saving grace is that they will be boosted by the signature of Kobe Bryant who has committed his future to the club for the next two seasons, when it is likely Black Mamba will call it a day. The Lakers have been a shell of their former selves without him this season and whilst Gasol has tried to do all he can, his performances aren’t quite the same without his intuitive frontline partner.
24 points on November 22 against fellow Californians Golden State Warriors, in which he donated $1000 each point to aid those who were affected in the typhoon in the Philippines, has perhaps seen him closer to his best whilst he’s also averaging 10.3 rebounds per game.
They will certainly be hoping to avoid a similar evening to Tuesday however. It was more than an off night for the 16-time NBA Champions in Washington as they crashed to a 116-111 win. Whilst they will be pleased with their scoring, their sloppy play will certainly have to be addressed before they take on the Pistons on Friday and scintillating Trail Blazers on Sunday.
It was a middle period certainly to forget for the Lakers. Matching the Wizards throughout the game, it was turnovers in the middle periods that cost them dearly. Eight turnovers in the second quarter cost the Lakers 13 points whilst six in the third took the game away from LA.
The Trail Blazers however are not suffering such problems and will pick the Lakers off like a wounded animal should they turn up to the Staples Center in similar form. They suffered a minor blip on Wednesday evening against a Suns side who are battling to advance in the play-offs but won’t feel too disheartened with so many wins behind them.
They’ve only lost twice on the road this year and are certainly up there with the Heat, Spurs and Pacers as favourites to be Championship contenders come the end of the season. The Lakers have had the better of them in recent years but the history book should fly out of the window, with Western Conference Player of the Week LaMarcus Aldridge in particular looking to keep their streak going. Aldridge averaged 22.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in his games against Milwaukee, Chicago and Golden State last week and logged 30 points and 21 rebounds against the latter.
It is likely that Portland, who now have the rest of the week off, will prove too strong for the Lakers and could cash in on a defence that are conceding almost 103 points per game.