Despite losing again to the defending champs, confidence will remain a key for the Lakers to have success against Portland.
Finally coming back home, the Los Angeles Lakers are set to host the Portland Trail Blazers two nights before Christmas. This game will not feature star point guard Damian LIllard on the opposing end, and that will mean that LA will have a chance to create and maintain the tempo of the game from early on.
They were able to nearly erase a 17-point halftime deficit in their latest attempt to dethrone the Warriors, and had control of the game prior to that in Houston, holding off a red-hot James Harden who still managed to drop 51 points.
A big key there has been not just improved play from Lonzo Ball, but stellar consistency and efficiency by Kyle Kuzma. With his 27 points on Friday night in Oakland, Kuzma all but solidified his case to be the starting power forward from here on out.
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I mean, if anyone really tries to argue that Larry Nance Jr. still deserves more minutes than Kuzma with the way things have been lately, my hope is that you would strongly reconsider such a thing.
Now that the Lakers aren’t going to be playing a top-two team for the first time in a bit, we’ll see if their style of play changes. What they can’t afford to do, though, is to step off the gas.
Sure, they lost their last game and in that loss Kuzma played for over 40 minutes. Sure, Lonzo Ball has struggled heavily but is bouncing back slowly but surely. And sure, Brandon Ingram looks like he could still bloom into something special.
But why keep waiting if that’s only going to get in the way?
All the Lakers have to do is continue to play confidently and true to themselves. Nobody really thought they’d have a chance against Houston — who had won 14 games going into their clash, by the way — nor against Golden State which they’ve taken to overtime twice already and nearly beat to complete the trilogy.
You could also argue that a win over Portland helps validate them as a real team that should be dangerous if they can find their way into the playoff picture.