The hobbled Los Angeles Lakers made easy work of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night at the Staples Center. The Lakers were without Anthony Davis in that contest because of a calf contusion. Lebron James has been dealing with a banged up ankle, but played through the injury last night at home. There were a few stressed out Lakers’ fans when they saw him reaggravate his ankle in the second quarter against the Timberwolves.
Lebron went down grimacing because of the pain that he was in. Following the incident, Frank Vogel and the Lakers’ faithful breathed a sigh of relief. Lebron laced his shoes up and went back out despite the injury. He finished the evening with 18 points and 9 rebounds for a productive night at the office. It wasn’t vintage Lebron, but playing with a bum ankle, it was more than acceptable from him. The overall performance across the board from the Lakers was a good look for the team without Davis.
We know that the Lakers can win without Davis on the floor, though if they are really going to pull away in games in his absence, players like Marc Gasol and Kyle Kuzma must play an expanded role. Kuzma led the Lakers with 20 points, including some timely defense on the other end of the floor. He had a big year in 2018, and then kind of tailed off with Davis on the team. Given the opportunity, Kuzma can likely match the 18.7 points and 5.5 boards he averaged three years ago.
Overplaying Davis and wearing him out early in the season isn’t required if Kuzma plays like that consistently in the 2020-21 campaign. Gasol made some nice plays last night for the Lakers as well. He was efficient with 12 points and had some pretty feeds for 8 assists. Gasol was also on the receiving end of solid ball movement. Lebron had a no look pass to Gasol beyond the arc for three which stood out.
Lebron and Davis are both listed as questionable to play against the Portland Trail Blazers tonight. With Lebron playing on a gimpy ankle and a back-to-back on the docket, it wouldn’t be out of character if Vogel sits him down. Alex Caruso is also listed as questionable with a strained muscle in his band. The Blazers could be short-handed, too, as Carmelo Anthony and Nassir Little are both expected to miss this one. Head below for our free Trail Blazers vs. Lakers pick on December 28, 2020.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. LA Lakers NBA Betting Odds:
Trail Blazers vs. Lakers Prediction:
Frank Vogel didn’t reveal his hand and tip which direction he was leaning for this game with Lebron James playing or not. He stated that playing his superstars is going to be dictated on a day-to-day basis. If the pain Lebron was in on Monday night, and considering this is a back-to-back game less than a week into the schedule, don’t be surprised if he sits in this game.
Davis’s availability for Monday night is murky as well, though if Lebron does not play, I suspect that he will get the greenlight despite his calf bothering him. The public will likely line up to bet heavy on the Lakers in this matchup, but they are not going to be playing at 100% by any means.
The Lakers’ offense has been performing as expected early in the 2020-21 campaign. They’ve recorded an average of 124.7 points per game for second in the league. At full strength, the Lakers are just about impossible with all of their options on the floor. On a back-to-back, though, and banged up at key spots, the Lakers may very well take their foot off the pedal in this one.
It could allow the visiting Trail Blazers to pull off a sneaky upset on the road at the Staples Center. That said, they will have to do it without Carmelo. He did not make the trip and won’t play in this one. In two games, Carmelo has scored 10 points per game on 22.5 minutes per game. His three ball has been working for him, as he’s connected at a 50% clip. This should be a tough challenge for the Blazers against a very active Lakers’ defense.
They’re ninth in the NBA with 107.3 points against through three outings. The Clippers and Mavericks scored 116 and 115 points. While Damian Lillard is one of the most underappreciated players in the NBA, his Blazers squad likely won’t give as many problems as the Clippers and Mavericks did.
A total like this with what could be no Lebron is much too inflated. On a back-to-back following a blowout this early in the season, I’m not expecting a very energetic Lakers team. I will get in on this total before it drops too far because of the injury concerns in this matchup.