This isn't meant to be any kind of slam against the Portland Trail Blazers. My goodness, with all their injuries they'll be fortunate to win a game the rest of the season.
And yes, I know -- Los Angeles will be playing the second of back-to-back games tonight in the Rose Garden when it meets the Trail Blazers. And Steve Nash is out, too. But so what? If the Lakers -- with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the lineup -- can't beat the Trail Blazers -- with Will Barton, Victor Claver and Meyers Leonard in the lineup -- then they're worse than they have any right to be.
Upset? This would rank right up there with the biggest in Blazer history. Seriously. Bryant and Gasol ought to be able to beat this group by themselves. On the inside, Howard and Gasol should have a field day. And hey -- it's Will Barton vs. Kobe Bryant!
How can Portland win? Well, by running -- and shooting well. The Blazers will have a big edge at point guard with Damian Lillard getting an extra day of rest since the last game and Nash out. Lillard might just explode tonight -- he's due. And Portland has had great luck this year running on Los Angeles. That should be even better tonight, with the Lakers old and tired against Portland's expected young and faster legs. The Blazers should be trying to force the tempo constantly -- it's probably their only chance.
That said, I'm not sure how long Meyers Leonard can last without fouling out against Howard. And LaMarcus Aldridge sent out this ominous one-word tweet last night:
If you've ever suffered from that affliction you know that sometimes it takes more than 24 hours to get rid of it. I have great anticipation about this game, though, partly because I'm not sure if I'm going to be watching one of the great NBA upsets of the season or a bunch of young players getting schooled by veterans.
And for sure, we're going to find out exactly what the Lakers are made of because, quite honestly, there is no way they should lose to the group the Trail Blazers must put on the floor tonight.