Trail Blazers vs Lakers Wednesday, 04/10/13 AT 07:00PM

Barton Likely To Start As Trail Blazers Look To Stop Skid, Beat LA

04/10/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Portland Trail Blazers (33-45) will look to snap an eight game losing streak on Wednesday night when they take on the Los Angeles Lakers (40-37) at 7PM. The game will be shown on CSNNW and it can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. Wesley Matthews (ankle) will be out, Nicolas Batum (shoulder) deems himself a game time decision while Terry Stotts said he was doubtful. Will Barton is likely to start in Matthews' place. Also, JJ Hickson is questionable with a sore back.

        •    Obviously, there are lots of things going on. It's likely that come tomorrow against the Los Angeles Lakers, with players that Stotts acknowledges some of his players grew up watching and idolizing, Portland will start four rookies. Obviously, this game means a great deal to the Lakers, who are neck and neck with the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Lakers have taken the last two meetings, both at Staples Center, between the two teams. The Lakers appeared to learned their lessons from the first match-up on Halloween night when Damian Lillard shredded their defense to the tune of 23 points and 11 assists. They also limited their turnovers, which allowed the Trail Blazers to run in transition. The Lakers are a high possession team, ranking fourth in pace in the league at 96.9 possessions per game according to NBA.com. The Trail Blazers are 19th, which much of the time is a by product of not getting enough stops to run and get easy baskets to speed up the game. The last game in LA between these two teams was an extremely fast, 105 possession affair. The Trail Blazers lost that February 22nd match-up as crucial plays down the stretch didn't break their way. Portland will have to push the pace and doing damage in transition will be a key if they want to win the game, something we illustrated the last time these two teams played. The Lakers are likely flying a little higher as they've taken a half-game lead over the Jazz after their win against New Orleans on Monday night behind 30 points, six assists and five rebounds from Kobe Bryant. Metta World Peace also made his return to floor, 12 days after meniscus surgery, playing 15 minutes and scoring four points.
      
     •    Despite the fact that Wednesday will be Will Barton's first career start, he's already shown what he an do and how he can help against the Lakers. After not playing against them on opening night, Barton, who is averaging 10.4 minutes per game this season, has averaged 21.5 minutes in the following two match-ups against the Lakers while averaging 8 points and 5.5 rebounds. He's showed some of the good things he can do in both games like these plays:

     

    Even though he misses in the second clip, he's shown an ability to get to the rack. If Will can use his length on the defensive end like he has been by bothering defenders and being an active helper, it will both help stop the Lakers from scoring but get Portland in transition. If Meyers Leonard starts for the questionable JJ Hickson, it gives the Trail Blazers even more incentive to run as Leonard has shown a fantastic ability to not only run the court but use his size well to finish at the rim in transition. Despite being prompted by reporters about whether he would surpass or match his career night, Barton was kept his focus towards helping the team win. He emphasized playing through Aldridge and Dame and just doing what he needs to do to help the Trail Blazers break their loosing streak. Before Barton had two productive outings in a row (averaging 15.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and five assists) he said that his goals were "winning, playing and producing," what he said as "three simple things." What is perhaps most encouraging about Will isn't caught up in the fact he had a historically great game for a rookie, nor the fact that he's going to be starting against his idol Kobe Bryant. At Tuesday's practice, he was again focused on just trying to make the most of his first NBA start and help his team win and didn't care much for putting his historic rookie performance of 22 points, 13 rebound, six assist and three steals in context. If the pace is fast as expected, just as the last two games have been for the Trail Blazers as well as their last match-up against the Lakers, it will certainly be another game for Barton to be in a flowing open-court game.
       
    •    Kobe Bryant has had one of his best offensive seasons ever in his 17th year. With Matthews doubtful and Batum injured it will likely be between Victor Claver and Will Barton to match-up with him. Wesley Matthews said that his advice to Will Barton would be to now "bite on his pump fakes" but Kobe is about more than just the pump fake. He averages 1.03 points per possessions on post-ups, ranking 1st in the league among players with at least 100 post-ups edging out Kevin Durant. With Kobe working from the post and running pick and rolls with the league's second-most efficient roll man according to Synergy in Dwight Howard, defense will certainly be a tough task.
       
    •    The Lakers have show their own defensive deficiencies many times this season, but their biggest problems have been in movement. The Lakers have actually been the best team in the NBA when it comes to points per possession allowed on post-ups that include passes and have been decent (13th) against isolations according to Synergy Sports Technology . Pick and rolls and transition plays have been the thorn in their side. Without Nicolas Batum and Matthews, Victor Claver, Luke Babbitt, Barton or anybody that gets minutes at the wings will need to help by knocking down open shots. One line-up that was solid against the Mavericks that was scored and was able to defend well was a unit of Lillard, Eric Maynor, Meyers Leonard, Barton and Babbitt. Babbitt scored 10 points against the Mavericks and even if he isn't knocking down shot after shot, his presence helps space the floor. That space is especially important when Maynor has gone one for nine from three in the last five games and Barton has shot 13 percent from three this season. Maynor and Barton, along with of course Lillard, still have a great ability to get to the paint and collapse a defense. Babbitt's presence will help keep those lanes open, but him knocking down some shots will be needed if Portland wants a win. Maynor, who hadn't yet been activated before the previous match-up, will get his first crack at the Lakers in a Trail Blazers uniform.

    • UPDATE:  Late last night LaMarcus Aldridge tweeted that he had a migraine around 21 hours before the teams are expected to tip-off. He did practice on Tuesday and it's unclear what effect it will have on his status tonight. Aldridge did play through migraine headaches in mid-March in games against the Knicks and Pistons, both Trail Blazers wins. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports on twitter that Aldridge is probable for tonight's game per Coach Stotts.


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