Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs Portland Trailblazers (8)
It’s possible that no series is more anticipated than the Los Angeles Lakers vs. The Portland Trailblazers. Part of the reason is the star power and part of it is that the Trailblazers are a 4 or 5 seed in disguise. The Lakers for their part don’t have the benefit of home court advantage. The Lakers were a dismal 3-5 while the Blazers were 6-2 and superstar point guard Damian Lillard was named the MVP of the bubble. LeBron James meanwhile lead the league in assists with 10 per game and is a finalist the 2019-2020 MVP race. The King and Dollar Dame as they are known are also joined by power forward Anthony Davis and small forward Carmelo Anthony. In addition to Anthony, the Blazers also have CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Perhaps no team benefited more from the suspension of the season than the Portland Trailblazers. The break allowed for Carmelo Anthony to get into the best shape of his career and for the Bosnian Beast Jusuf Nurkic to recover from a terrible break in his leg last season.
With the resurgence of Carmelo Anthony and the reemergence of Jusuf Nurkic the Portland Trailblazers may be the best 8th seed since the 1999 New York Knicks. Unlike the Lakers, the Portland Trailblazers have at least 7 guys that can score 20. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, Gary Trent Jr., and Mario Hozinga could all score 20 at any moment. The Lakers on the other hand have 2 of the top ten players in the league in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But after that the Lakers are desperately searching for a third option. It was thought that Kyle Kuzma would be that third guy but so far that hasn’t been cemented and Kuzma had a season that actually saw him digress from whom he was during the 2018-2019 season. What the Lakers have right now are two great players with mostly unproven players. Danny Green is a two time champion but he has been fairly in consistent this season. Rajan Rondo is a champion but he’s never been the same player since tearing his ACL. Markief Morris was a good addition but he has yet to break out for the Lakers the way his brother has in Clipperland, meanwhile the Lakers also got JR Smith but he hasn’t played meaningful basketball in 3 year. Additionally the Lakers signed Dion Waiters but he’s never proven himself in this league.
Furthermore the Lakers best defender in Avery Bradley opted out of the bubble, meaning that the Lakers don’t have anyone to guard Damian Lillard. Lillard is averaging 30 points per game this season and recently willed his team into this series against the Lakers. The Lakers will try to slow him down with Alex Caruso and virtually every guard on their roster. Should the King guard Dolla Dame that will leave Carmelo Anthony to have a field day over Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green. On top of that the Lakers will a tough time guarding CJ McCollum as well. In McCollum and Lillard, the Blazers have arguably the best back court. The Blazers meanwhile have nobody on their roster that can stop LeBron James. James will be able to dance and assist his way through the Blazers defense. Anthony Davis however will have a much harder time as the Blazers are equipped with both Hassan Whiteside and Jusuf Nurkic to use 12 fouls him.
For the Lakers to win they are going to have to pick their poison: either let Lillard go off and stop everyone else or stop Lillard and make everyone else beat them. The Lakers will most certainly need perfect games from LeBron and Anthony Davis every time out. The Lakers will also need Green, Kuzma, and Morris to step up. The Portland Trailblazers need to get the very best that they can out of Dame, Melo, and McCollum if they want any shot at winning this series. Nurkic and Whiteside will have to play out of their minds against Anthony Davis inside. The Blazers will give LeBron James a heavy dose of Gary Trent Jr. and Mario Hozinga. On top of going off, LeBron will need to keep dishing out the assists and getting his teammates involved. If the Lakers can get contributions from Waiters, Smith, Rondo, Caruso, and of course Kuzma, they’ll be in good shape.
For the Blazers to win, Damian Lillard must be at the top of his game. Carmelo Anthony must also be at the top of his game. Nurkic and Whiteside will have to out muscle Davis and Javale McGee. CJ McCollum will have hit at virtually every opportunity while Gary Trent Jr will need to continue to be the spark off the bench. The Blazers will also have to force the Lakers not named Davis or James to beat them. Though they are heavy underdogs, the Blazers are virtually unlike any other 8 seed in NBA history. To top it all off there is no home-court advantage against them.
Buckle up because this one’s going to be wild.
Enjoy the games!