Two of the hottest teams in the NBA will do battle at Staples Center today as the 37-26 Portland Trail Blazers visit the 28-34 Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 p.m. ET Monday on NBA TV).
Portland has won six games in a row and eight of its last nine contests to seize the No. 3 spot in the ultra-tight Western Conference standings. The squad’s defense is back to its early-season dominance behind great effort from almost everybody in the rotation.
Los Angeles has quickly distanced itself from the NBA’s cellar-dwellers over the past two months. The Lakers have won five games in a row and have gone a sparkling 17-7 since January 5. The team’s young players have come up big on both ends of the floor.
Which of these streaking teams will continue their winning ways today? This preview will analyze this matchup with some important questions and then give a couple of Portland Trail Blazers vs LA Lakers predictions and betting picks.
Can Lonzo Ball Stay Aggressive in this Hot Shooting Stretch?
Ball has been on fire from the outside since returning from a knee injury after the All-Star break. In four games since then, he has gone 14-of-22 from three-point range (63.6 percent) and has averaged 12 points, 6.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. His season mark from downtown was just 30.3 before this stretch.
However, Ball’s Blazers counterpart at the point guard position, Damian Lillard, has also been excellent as of late on much higher offensive volume. Lillard has averaged 34.8 points per game on a 64.2 true shooting percentage in his last eight contests.
Ball has been hesitant to look for his shot on offense for much of this season. However, he needs to take advantage of the shooting momentum he has for the Lakers to win this game. We know that Lillard will probably put up a lot of points, so Ball can’t be an offensive no-show.
Can the Trail Blazers Keep the Lakers’ Shooters Quiet?
This preview mentioned the importance of Ball’s contributions above. However, Portland will have to focus on much more than Ball’s outside shooting if it wants to keep the Lakers’ surging offense down.
Los Angeles has been one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA on the whole this season. The Lakers have hit at least 10 three-pointers 11 times in their recent stretch of nine wins in 12 games, going 41.7 percent from downtown in that stretch.
In their previous 50 games, the Lakers hit double-digit threes in only 21 games. Their three-point shooting percentage was a modest 32.5.
Portland is a good team at limiting opponent three-pointers and will need to swarm the three-point line if it wants to assert its dominance in this game.
Who Wins the Matchup Between Julius Randle and Al-Farouq Aminu?
The power forward battle in this game features two contrasting play styles. The Lakers’ Randle is an offensive-minded bulldozer who will use his elite strength to push his weight around in the paint on drives and rebound attempts. Often, he gets fouled.
Aminu of the Blazers is more of a stretch 4, but specializes on defense, where he uses his length, IQ and decent quickness to cover a variety of players.
Neither of these players are particularly good choices to defend each other. Randle isn’t a plodder, but he would rather not have to step out to defend quicker 4s like Aminu. Aminu has decent strength, but he’s not nearly at the level of Randle in that area. So who will win this matchup?
Our Preview’s Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Betting Picks & Predictions
Brandon Ingram is questionable for the Lakers and Josh Hart is out. These injuries are important for the Lakers’ depth and versatility on the wing, as both young players have been very solid on both ends of the floor in the past month or two.
Considering the injuries, the Blazers have a considerable talent advantage and have more to play for at this point, since just one win separates them from the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference.
- Portland is a 2-point favorite in this matchup with the America-friendly oddsmakers, and deservedly so. This preview suggests betting with the Blazers -2pts @ betting odds of -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes, BetOnline or Bookmaker.
- I think the Blazers’ resurgent defense will be able to keep the Lakers’ shooters down. That’s been the top factor behind Los Angeles’ recent hot streak, but I have a feeling some regression could be coming. Bet the under 224 @ -104 with Betonline.