PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After a hard-fought victory in Game 1 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs in the bubble, the Portland Trail Blazers are looking to jump to a 2-0 lead over the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
Here’s what the Blazers must do in order to get the much-needed win:
Stay on the attack
Last time these two teams faced off, the Blazers did an excellent job of constantly putting the pressure and attacking the Lakers defense. Whether that was on the fast break and the Blazers put the Lakers on their heels or driving in for contested contact layups, or even shooting 34-foot 3-pointers, the Blazers were always in attack mode and they will need to do the same Thursday night and not back down.
Blazers need Wenyen Gabriel
A very unexpected wild card when facing the Lakers this season has been Wenyen Gabriel. He has a very unique combination of size, athleticism and most importantly, his ability to guard Anthony Davis. Davis is one of the best players in the entire NBA and this season, he has averaged a dominating 26 points and just under 10 rebounds a game. But, Gabriel has a game much like Davis, athletic, big, and moves well. I think this is why Gabriel has done such a great job defensively on Davis this season and in game one, Gabriel and company held Davis to a very poor 8-24 shooting from the field. The Blazers are going to need Gabriel to provide key defense on Davis in game two.
Two big man system will be key
Coach Terry Stotts did a fantastic job of realizing the situation that was occurring in the middle of game one. Stotts noticed that the Lakers just couldn’t knock down a perimeter shot so he brought in Hassan Whiteside to protect the paint alongside Jusuf Nurkic. This game plan absolutely worked, with these two rim protectors in the game, the Lakers had an extremely hard time scoring in the paint. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw this again in game two due to the success.
Need a big night out of Gary Trent
After coming out extremely hot in the NBA restart, Trent has cooled off just a bit. But, that does not mean he couldn’t have another huge performance for the Blazers. In Game 1, Trent knocked down a huge 3-point shot late in the fourth quarter which ultimately sealed the deal for the Blazers. I think the Lakers are going to come out with something to prove in Game 2. With that being said, I think Trent’s energy and ability to shoot could stun the Lakers in Game 2.
Active on perimeter defense
The Blazers did a great job of being extremely active on the defensive end of the floor in Game 1. They ran the Lakers off of the 3-point line and or contested almost every single shot from the perimeter and it was apparent that it made an impact on the Lakers shooting as they shot just 15% from 3-point range. The Blazers will need that exact same energy if not more in game two because the Lakers will not shoot that bad again unless the Blazers make it difficult for them.
Need another big performance late in the game
In Game 1, things were going back and forth the entire time, with the Blazers leading most of the way. Late in the game, the Lakers jumped out to a 9-point lead and it was looking like the Lakers were going to walk away with the win. But, when it came down to crunch time and plays needed to be made, the Blazers were the ones who made all of the big plays on both sides of the floor. Again, if the game is neck-and-neck down the stretch again, Portland needs to be the team to simply make the shots and get the stops.