LeBron James is set to make his debut in the Lakers jersey on Thursday night. Most people have been anticipating this since James decided to sign in Los Angeles in the offseason. The Lakers new roster will look to start out this season strong in hopes of making it back to the playoffs. Thursday night against the Trail Blazers will be a good test to begin the season.
Portland finished last season in the third seed in the Western Conference. The Trail Blazers had a 49-33 record to end the season. Portland met their match in the first round of the playoffs last season. The Trail Blazers lost to the New Orleans Pelicans in four games.
The Lakers had a disappointing campaign last season. Los Angeles went 35-47, which put them in eleventh place of the Western Conference. The Lakers had some issues with injuries, but they also had a young inconsistent team. With a new arsenal of depth players and LeBron James, the Lakers will look to open a more successful chapter.
Los Angeles and Portland both have a day off before their next game on Saturday night. This means neither team is likely to play conservatively. If either team was on the first night of a back to back, they may be more likely to give their starters more rest. This will likely not be the case on Thursday night.
Last Season’s Meetings
Portland hosted the first game between these two teams last season. The Trail Blazers pulled off a 113-110 win. Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum all scored over 20 points, but no other player on Portland hit double digits in points. Brook Lopez dropped 27 points for the Lakers, but it was not enough to pull off the win.
The second game of the season shifted back to Los Angeles. Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma each scored 18 points, but it was not enough to give the Lakers the win. Shabazz Napier and Maurice Harkless each scored over 20 points The Trail Blazers snuck out with a 95-92 win.
The final matchup of the season stayed in Los Angeles. Damian Lillard tore apart the Lakers defense with 39 points, while McCollum put up 22 points. Julius Randle led the Lakers in points with 21. The Trail Blazers ended with another close victory. Portland won 108-103.
The Trail Blazers and Lakers played close games last season, but Portland ended up sweeping the season series 3-0. Los Angeles will look to enact a little revenge by starting out the Trail Blazers season with a loss. I believe with a better roster this season; the Lakers could pull off the upset on Thursday night.
Laker’s New Lineup
The Lakers have multiple players making their debut’s in the lineup on Thursday night. The big one is obviously LeBron James starting at Small Forward. Rajon Rondo has been reported to start over Lonzo Ball to begin the season. Rondo will have an exciting matchup. Rondo is known for his fiery defense and he will play opposite of Damian Lillard.
Los Angeles also has Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee or Michael Beasley making their debut in the roster. All three players should come in off the bench. They add a level of depth that should compete with Portland’s lineup. The Trail Blazers biggest new addition is Seth Curry coming in off the bench.
I believe that the extra depth that the Lakers have coming in off the bench will give them the advantage in this game. Los Angeles has added quite a few players who can produce coming in off the bench. The Lakers have a solid mix of veterans and younger players throughout their lineup. They will look to prove that they can produce on the road against the Trail Blazers.
The Trail Blazers had one of the top defenses in the NBA last season. Portland held teams to 103 points per game, which was in the top five of the NBA. The Trail Blazers also had a defensive rating of 106.4, which was in the upper half of the league as well.
While Portland has an effective offensive pair of Guards, the rest of their team really helps hold it down on defense. The Trail Blazers play a pesky game that could get under the Lakers skin. If Los Angeles struggles to get things going early, I believe it could give Portland a chance to pull away early.
Los Angeles struggled to find a win against the Lakers last season. With their lineup extremely different than last season, they could turn that around early this season. With the new lineup though, Los Angeles could see some issues with their chemistry early in the matchup.
The pace of this game will likely start out slow like most first season games. Both teams will be looking to see what their lineup is capable of and getting a feel for the season early. I believe that this should keep the game close.
BetOnline has the Lakers listed as +3 against the spread. I believe that this game should be closer to like a spread of one. Both teams are pretty evenly matched on paper. James will be looking to impress in his debut, which makes me like the Lakers. I am riding the road underdog with the points.