Portland and LA go toe to toe in regular season; Steve Dykes/Getty images

The Trail Blazers are in!

Well, they did it! Trail Blazers make playoffs! A bittersweet moment of celebration. After a narrow victory over the Grizzlies, the Trail Blazers battle the Lakers.

The Trail Blazers have had to fight hard to get to where they are. Plus, they already lost to the Lakers two out of the three games they played in the regular season. The game the Trail Blazers won, Lillard went off for 48 points. Even in their recent win over the Nets, Dame had to score 42 to get the 8th seed position.

Trail Blazers make playoffs. Now what?

One thing that Portland has going for them right now is their momentum. They are going into the playoffs with a four-game winning streak. After their narrow win over the Grizzlies, their confidence has to be brimming. Plus, Dame looks unstoppable right now.

Damian Lillard has put his team on his back, averaging a whopping 30 ppg this season. With the extra support from Carmelo Anthony and CJ McCollum, they may be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs. These two have allowed some of the scoring pressure to be relieved from Dame’s shoulders. The concern offensively is they don’t have a big presence in the paint this year.

The Trail Blazer’s Center, Nurkic, had a big game against the Grizzlies, scoring 21 points and claiming 22 rebounds. However, even with a great game, I’m not convinced that he will keep this level of playing against a bigger stronger Lakers team.

Unlike the Portland Trailblazers, the Lakers have two large forwards to make up for not having a center with a huge offensive presence. This may hurt the Trail Blazers on both ends of the court.

What the Lakers have to offer.

The Lakers are arguably one of the best teams in the league this year. With the addition of the defensive player of the year finalist, Anthony Davis, the Lakers have been a top defensive team. Their offense has been able to dominate, despite not really having a set rhythm to their playing.

AD and King James have been more than capable of leading their team to victory, but they have been missing a third man in their game. Throughout the season, different players have stepped up into this position when they needed it. Without having a consistent player in this role, it is hard to know what to expect with the Lakers lineup.

On top of not knowing for sure what the starting lineup will look like, Davis and Kuzma, were out last game for some minor injuries. The team also seemed to struggle against their last game with the Kings. This may just be they weren’t playing all out before going into the playoffs. Could be that it was due to AD and Kuzma being on the bench. Either way, it will be interesting to see these two teams go head to head.

Some things to look out for.

  1. Who is going to guard Damian Lillard? It is apparent that the key to shutting down the Trail Blazer’s game is by shutting down Lillard early. With Bradley out, it is unclear who they plan on putting in.
  2. Will the Lakers continue to struggle from 3-point land? For whatever reason, the NBA restart was not kind to the Lakers 3-point game. They currently are ranked last in 3-point shooting since the NBA’s restart. This could be a crucial factor in this first series against Portland.
  3. What can we expect to see from J.R. Smith? J.R. Smith was signed after Bradley opted out for the restart. Even though he is stepping in for Bradley, it is not evident that he will get much playing time. It will be interesting to see what the veteran can contribute after an almost two year hiatus.

My money is on the Lakers for this first series. Trail Blazers make playoffs. Lakers take them out. Despite an unclear starting lineup, I don’t see the Lakers having too much trouble against Portland for this first series. The Lakers have a much deeper bench than Portland, more versatility in players, and a much stronger defense. That being said, you can’t count out the Trail Blazers when they have Dame and Melo stepping onto the court. Should be fun to watch the Trail Blazers battle the Lakers.

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