Portland Trail Blazers vs Los Angeles Lakers 12/31/21: Starting Lineups, Matchup Preview, Betting Odds, Live Stream

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Matchup Preview (12/31/21)

The Portland Trail Blazers (13-21) travel to face the scuffling Los Angeles Lakers (17-19) Friday night. The Blazers enter the contest on a three game losing streak with a 14.7 average margin of loss across those games. In the month of December, the Blazers are 2-10 and collapsing quickly. Injuries struck the Blazers at the worst moment, forcing Damian Lillard and Norman Powell to attempt to carry the Blazers offense by themselves. Jusuf Nurkic, Dennis Smith Jr, and Cody Zeller (COVID) are expected to be out. However, CJ McCollum (chest), Robert Covington (COVID), and Ben McLemore (COVID) may return to the court, although it is unlikely. If McCollum, Covington, and McLemore play, the thin Blazers bench would receive a necessary upgrade. Lillard would have his scoring partner and Nassir Little would have his defensive wing partner back. Currently, the Blazers are in rough shape and may seek to begin a soft rebuild at the trade deadline. It will depend on whether they can make up any ground in the Western Conference standings. 

The Lakers are fresh off a 14-point blown lead against the Memphis Grizzlies. It was punctuated by the final possession in which the Lakers ignored a wide open Westbrook in the corner and LeBron turned the ball over trying to do too much. The whole game was a microcosm of their season: the Westbrook experiment has not worked, LeBron is too old to carry the Lakers in the fashion he is accustomed to, and Anthony Davis must be the number one option for the Lakers to win the championship. They are 1-6 in their last 7 games, and Anthony Davis is still at least three weeks away from returning. The Lakers are only 2 games in front of the 11th place Kings, who are currently out of the playoffs. Anthony Davis (knee), Kendrick Nunn (knee), and Austin Reaves (personal) are expected to be out. The Lakers may be getting Trevor Ariza (COVID) and Kent Bazemore (COVID) back, as they are questionable to play. While Ariza has only played two games for the Lakers, he has been a productive piece with averages of 7.5 PPG, 1.0 APG, 3.0 RPG on 100/100/50 shooting. In order for the Lakers to turn their season around, a third player must emerge to aid LeBron and Westbrook. Carmelo Anthony and Talen Horton-Tucker have been extremely inconsistent for the Lakers. Their scoring punch and versatile play would allow the Lakers to float until Davis returns.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Betting Odds

In their only previous matchup this season, the Blazers won 105-90 on November 6th. However, LeBron did not play in that game and Davis scored 2 points in 7 minutes. The Blazers, meanwhile, were at full strength. For this game, I am going with the Lakers moneyline. I expect the game to be close throughout and for both teams to score in the 100-110 range. For the spread, I would bet up to Lakers -3.5 and not higher. LeBron/Westbrook and Lillard/Powell should cancel each other out in terms of offensive production. The game will be decided by the third and fourth best player. Carmelo, Horton-Tucker, Nance, or Simons will determine the outcome of the game. If the Blazers get back McCollum and Covington, then I would go with the Blazers moneyline and bet on -4.5 Blazers for the spread.

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TV Schedule

Date: 12/31/21
Time: 8:00 PM ET
Arena: Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA
Channel: NBATV

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Portland Trail Blazers Starting Lineup

PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Norman Powell
SF: Nassir Little
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Jusuf Nurkic

Portland Trail Blazers Analysis

The Blazers are currently seeded far below expectations this season. They were projected to be between the 4th and 8th seed in the West, not 13-21 and the 12th seed. Although it seems as though they have played terribly, much of their woes comes down to injury luck. The Blazers, as usual, have been bitten by the injury bug, which has caused their rotation to be inconsistent and inexperienced. Before he suffered a collapsed lung, McCollum was averaging 20.6 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.1 RPG on 42/39/70 shooting. Although his scoring was slightly down, McCollum produced beneficial minutes for the Blazers. Robert Covington, however, has regressed from a premier 3&D starter to a solid role player. Covington is producing 6.7 PPG, 1.2 APG, 5.0 RPG on 39/33/100 shooting. In 32 games, he has only been to the free throw line 3 times. Covington’s decline has not been too harmful though because of Nassir Little’s emergence as a defensive stopper. Little, who is only 21 years old, has grown immensely as an all around player and relishes the tough defensive assignments. He will often draw the task of guarding LeBron James in this matchup, which should be a scrappy duel. Overall, the Blazers need a masterful performance from Lillard and Little to bother LeBron in order to win the game.

Los Angeles Lakers Starting Lineup

PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Talen Horton-Tucker
SF: LeBron James
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: Dwight Howard

Los Angeles Lakers Analysis

If the Lakers ever needed Anthony Davis, it is right now. They are 1-6 in their last 7 games and do not have a bright January to look forward to. With Davis sidelined for at least three weeks, January looks bleak. While Westbrook is a great player, his style does not mesh with LeBron. They are both ball dominant, subpar shooters, and pass first players. Neither of them are great at defense and they do not provide much value off the ball as spot up shooters. Westbrook is quite literally one of the worst high-volume shooters the NBA has ever seen. The lack of shooting on the Lakers roster paired with these two players leads to an unbalanced, confused team. It seems as though the Lakers have no identity and cohesion on offense. Opponents average 112.4 PPG against the Lakers, the 3rd most in the Western Conference. The Lakers lack an elite perimeter defender, and without their rim protector Anthony Davis, the defense is in shambles. There are very few players on the roster that can be trusted to get their own shot. Beyond LeBron and Westbrook, the only player that can create his own offense is 37 year old Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers roster as a whole is poorly constructed and is subsequently holding LeBron back from another title run. 

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Los Angeles Lakers Daily Fantasy Picks

I expect LeBron and Lillard to fill the box score in this game. LeBron has been on a warpath recently trying to keep the Lakers afloat. Lillard, meanwhile, will face a Lakers defense that lacks an elite point guard defender. Lillard has the tools to exploit this matchup and I project him to score at least 35 points. The role players that benefit the most from this matchup are Carmelo Anthony and Anfernee Simons. Carmelo knows he must score to keep the Lakers bench in the game, and the Blazers bench currently lacks the defender to shut down Carmelo. If Covington and McCollum return, though, then Nance Jr or Covington would be on the second unit and capable of marking Carmelo. I would only pick Carmelo if McCollum and Covington are unable to play. Simons, on the other hand, will have full control over the second unit regardless of who returns for the Blazers. Simons has been an all around player for the Blazers, and I expect him to take advantage of this suspect Lakers defense. A 12/5/5 game from Simons is in his grasp, and he will get the chance to attain those numbers.

I am currently a junior at University of Pennsylvania majoring in Psychology. I have spent the last few years working with various UPenn athletics teams and contributing to the UPenn Sports Analytics Group. My primary interests reside in NBA, NFL, and College Football.

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