Don’t Make Too Much of Lakers’ Win Over Portland

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Portland Trailblazers in each team’s next-to-last 2014 exhibition game tonight, but don’t get too excited about it, as the win was handed to the Lakers on a silver platter by Portland coach Terry Stotts, who used his five regular starters for a total of 17 game minutes, all from Damian Lillard, as he rested Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez, along with top reserve and former Lakers’ point guard Steve Blake. Granted, the Lakers also rested Koby Bryant, and Jordan Hill also did not play, having now been added to the lengthy LA injured list. The Lakers were closer to full strength then they’ve been in awhile, though, with last night’s return of Jeremy Lin and then tonight’s return of Jordan Clarkson.

Portland did have another former Laker on the court, Chris Kaman, but he was limited in his playing time due to the head injury and stitches he had covered by a bandana, following a collision with Denver’s Timofey Mozgov in their previous game. Kaman was

hot from the floor, though, as he has been the entire preseason (shooting shooting 62%), hitting on five of seven shots for 12 points in 23 minutes.

Lakers' rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson showed off some, really for the first time this preseason, with Randle scoring 17 points on seven-of-ten, and pulling down eight rebounds in 24 minutes, while Clarkson was
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three-of-five for six points, plus one really nifty steal, in 15 minutes. Jeremy Lin put in 13, but his play was erratic, and he seemed out of control on drives to the basket several times, and his defense left a lot to be desired.

So, with all these highlights for the Kobe-less Lakers’ why not rejoice in the win and think it could be a harbinger of good things to come? Because with all the regulars on the bench, look at who did play for Portland:

  • Allen Crabbe, who averaged 2.2 points in his 15 appearances last season, started and played 35 minutes;
  • C.J. McCollum, who got into 38 games last season, scoring 5.3 per game, played 32 minutes;
  • Will Barton, who got into 40 games last season, scoring 4.0 per game, played 28 minutes; and
  • Meyers Leonard, who played just less than nine minutes per each of his 40 games last season, with a 2.5 ppp average, played 28 minutes.

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Even former Lakers' draft choice, and once heir-apparent to Derek Fisher, Darius Morris played seven minutes.

So, therein lies the problem. The team that Portland had on the court for most of the evening looked every bit the part of three or four-point scoring third stringers. Would Randle have been able to drive the lane and put in his 17 if LaMarcus Aldridge were on the
court? How would the Lakers’ point guard contingent have fared if Lillard had played more than 17 minutes? What if Mathews and Batum had scored their average 32 combined points? Kobe not playing will even out a lot of it, but not it all, and though the Lakers played their best of the exhibition season, it still is not nearly good enough to envision them winning half their games this coming season, especially when you also consider that all the exhibition games have been in fan-friendly Southern Cal arenas. Wait until the Lakers travel to Portland, and Oakland, and Denver, not to mention Texas, Ohio, and Oklahoma.

The Lakers close out the pre-season on Friday, against Sacramento, in Las Vegas – another tough venue, looking ahead, and looking forward (?) to next Tuesday’s season opener against Houston, followed by a trip to Arizona to play the Suns the next day.

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