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Lakers, Blazers

3 reasons Lakers will beat Blazers in 2020 NBA Playoffs

There’s no denying that momentum-wise, the Portland Trail Blazers have the edge over the Los Angeles Lakers in their first-round matchup in the Western Conference Playoffs. The Blazers are coming off a tremendous run in the bubble, which they ended with another impressive victory on Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies to secure their spot in the playoffs. Perhaps most importantly, Damian Lillard has been scorching hot pretty much throughout the seeding games.

On the other hand, the Lakers have had a miserable time since the restart. They went 3-5 in their eight seeding games, and have been subpar throughout. Clearly, if you take both of these factors at face value, then you’d have to favor the Blazers in this matchup, right?

Well, you shouldn’t always buy into the narrative, regardless of how appealing it may be. Make no mistake about it: the Lakers are the overwhelming favorites to emerge out of this series. Below are three compelling reasons why they should be able to do so unscathed.

Fatigue

Simply put, the Blazers expended too much energy to get to where they are right now. Not only did they play one game more than the Lakers did thus far, but the effort they had to put into winning these games will likely prove to be one of the factors that will lead to their downfall.

Portland came from behind again on Saturday against the Grizzlies, and this has pretty much become the norm for them these past few games. Either that or they end up playing close games wherein they expend so much energy just to escape with the victory. The amount of effort they had to put into each and every win (and loss) cannot be underestimated — especially against a rested Lakers side.

This is none truer than in the case of Lillard, who carried his team throughout the bubble games. At this point, does he still have enough gas in the tank to go head-to-head with the best team in the West in a full series?

Defense

Speaking of Lillard, he has proven to be one of the league’s potent scorers right now. Portland’s offense is likely not going to be a problem for them. After all, they have a guy like Lillard who can get hot at any given time regardless of who’s in front of him.

The problem lies in the Blazers’ defense. According to NBA Stats, Portland has the fourth-worst defensive rating in the entire league at 114.3. For a little perspective, the Blazers are ranked lower in defensive rating than both the Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks. This being the case, how will this sub-standard Blazers defense fare against one of the best offenses in the league? What’s they’re game plan in defending LeBron James? Anthony Davis? Heck, even Kyle Kuzma in the second unit?

If you’re wondering about LA’s defensive rating on the season, they’re ranked third in the league at 106.1. As the old saying goes: defense wins games. In this case, defense is going to win this series.

Outmatched

At the end of the day, it’s a simple case of the Blazers being overmatched. They are not in the same league as the Lakers right now, and despite what other might say about this possibly being a tight series between a heavy favorite and an underdog, this simply isn’t going to be the case.

Let’s take their regular season matchups as an example to prove this point. This season, these two teams went against each other three times, with the Lakers winning their first two contests. In their first meeting in December, LA blew out the Blazers by 23 points. This was followed by a eight-point victory by the Lakers a few weeks later. In January, the Blazers were able to get one back behind an amazing 51-point performance by Lillard who shot 56.7 percent from the field in that game.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that in order for the Blazers to win, an offensive explosion from Lillard is going to be a prerequisite. This is certainly not beyond the bubble MVP, but is this something he can do for an entire series? There’s no doubt that LA’s defense will be focused on him, with LeBron himself likely to be matched against the Blazers star more often than Lillard would like. Once the Lakers are able to contain Lillard, then what do the Blazers do?

CJ McCollum has been playing through a fractured back and has been shooting the ball poorly of late, and this is not likely going to change for Portland’s second option against a stingy Lakers defense. Carmelo Anthony has had a renaissance season of sorts, but he is a far cry from his All-Star self. Jusuf Nurkic, for his part, has been great since returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, but he too ins’t a hundred percent. Moreover, he’s also going to be expending a lot of energy on the defensive end whenever he’s matched up against Davis.

Again, Portland’s narrative is great. It’s the underdog story that makes professional sports so captivating. However, there just isn’t going to be a Cinderella story for them this time around.