Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers NBA Playoffs Round 1
Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers, Western Conference Quarterfinals

The Portland Trail Blazers deserve a lot of credit for how they battled in Game 5, but Anthony Davis and LeBron James were simply too much to handle. The Los Angeles Lakers duo combined for 79 points as the Lakers eliminated the Trail Blazers despite 36 points from C.J. McCollum and 27 from Carmelo Anthony. Portland was without Damian Lillard for the decisive game, but the Trail Blazers continued to compete with the Lakers without their superstar before ultimately seeing its season end.

Los Angeles Lakers win 4-1

As the Los Angeles Lakers await their next opponent, they will take a sigh of relief that they weren’t pushed further by the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland won the opening game of this series and seemed to be dangerous but LeBron James took over the series and Damian Lillard’s injuries started to catch up with him. There are plenty of concerns for Los Angeles with a defense that allowed Portland to shoot progressively better from the floor in each of the five games and an offense that’s reliant on two players. Can Anthony Davis and James stay healthy enough and score enough to lead the Lakers back to the top of the NBA?

Game 1

August 18th, 9 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

The top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers and eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers had very different experiences in the NBA’s bubble. The Lakers were almost guaranteed to be the top seed, and won just three times while finetuning the squad ahead of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers were fighting for their season and won six of their last seven games – including the play-in game against Memphis – to stamp their spot in the postseason.

Although the Lakers didn’t take too many risks in the bubble, their best players looked to be in good form during those eight games in Orlando. LeBron James’ scored 31 and 29 points in his final two games with a heavy workload then scored 17 points in 15 minutes in the Lakers’ finale. Anthony Davis scored 27 points in his final appearance of the regular season, Kyle Kuzma had two 20-point performances in his last three games and Dion Waiters scored 19 points in the season finale to potentially add a pop of scoring off the bench. However, the Lakers just haven’t looked impressive as a team, and there is a question of whether or not they can just flip a switch now that the playoffs have begun.

There’s no debating that Portland’s star player is playing his best basketball of the season at the moment. Damian Lillard missed two free throws late in a loss to the Clippers then proceeded to average 43.5 points over the next three games to drag the Trail Blazers to three wins and a spot in the play-in game. He scored 31 in that playoff with Memphis, but was complemented by three other 20-point scorers: CJ McCollum (29), Jusuf Nurkic (22) and Carmelo Anthony (21). Anthony is the key to this series for Portland, and if he can continue to make big contributions on offense like he did down the stretch of the regular season, it’ll put a lot of pressure on the Lakers defense.

This series is a test about whether talent or recent form is more important in the first-round of the postseason. The Trail Blazers have clearly been playing better basketball in the last two weeks, but the Lakers are probably more talented and still have the best player in the series. The New Jersey online sports betting sites favor the Lakers, clearly, and it would be a shocker if Los Angeles doesn’t advance. So the Lakers at -400 odds to win the series makes the most sense. The question becomes how long it will take, and my gut is telling me six games at +350 odds.

Tuesday’s first game of the series will be decided by how quickly the Lakers can adjust to postseason basketball. Portland has been playing in must-win games for the last two weeks, which has turned Lillard into a scoring machine and given the Trail Blazers a lot of confidence. The Trail Blazers are still mostly the same team that played in the Western Conference Finals last season, so they’ll be ready for the challenge the Lakers present. Portland has so much playoffs experience and have been playing so well that it will pull off the mild upset in the opening game, and you can collect on the +194 odds on that victory.

BET ON PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS TO WIN

 

Game 2 (Portland Trail Blazers lead 1-0)

August 20th, 9:00 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

Fans of offense might have had to shield their eyes at times, but the Portland Trail Blazers still beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the first game of their playoffs series. Neither team shot 40 percent from the field, but Damian Lillard still managed to score 34 points to counteract a triple-double from LeBron James. The key was the depth players as the Trail Blazers rose to the task around Lillard and C.J. McCollum while the Lakers failed to adequately support their two superstars.

The Lakers really need either Anthony Davis and LeBron to take over games or for the supporting cast around those two superstars to be better. Los Angeles shot 35 percent from the floor as a team, but that number drops to 32 percent if you exclude Davis and James. It was a real struggle for the Lakers from behind the arc as they made just five of 32 attempts, but that still means they missed more than 55 percent of their shots from inside the arc. Los Angeles needs to improve its offense immediately or the Trail Blazers will run them out of the NBA playoffs.

Portland did exactly what it needed to do to continue riding its recent momentum through the postseason. The Trail Blazers supported Lillard in a game in which he wasn’t spectacular, shut down the Lakers’ role players and made enough contributions at the right moments to lift them to a win. Carmelo Anthony struggled from the floor, but he made a big 3-pointer when it counted. It wasn’t Jusuf Nurkic’s best day either, but he had 15 big rebounds and helped shut down Davis after a monster first half on the stat sheet. Those are the little things that will earn Portland more wins in this series.

We will see a more motivated and angrier LeBron James in Game 2 of this series, but I question whether it will be enough to carry the Lakers to victory. Portland’s team is playing with more confidence around Lillard than the Lakers are playing around James. An off day for Lillard was 34 points in a win, whereas LeBron had a triple-double and it still wasn’t enough to carry his team. Until I see more from the complementary cast around Davis and James, I’m betting on Portland at the New Jersey online sports betting sites at +225 odds to win the game.

BET ON PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS TO WIN

Game 3 (Series tied 1-1)

August 22nd, 8:30 p.m., AdventHealth Arena, Time, Arena

Anthony Davis stole the show for the Los Angeles Lakers, who put a beatdown on the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 2 on Thursday. Portland was playing shorthanded for a bit when Damian Lillard dislocated his finger, and Lillard wasn’t the same in finishing with 18 points. The Trail Blazers had no answer inside for Davis and they couldn’t find the complementary scoring to make up for what Portland lost with Lillard on the bench getting treated.

LeBron James called Davis a “unicorn” after his performance Thursday, and it’s hard to disagree with James’ assessment. Davis was a steady force inside and out for the Lakers with his 31 points and 11 rebounds, dominating the paint but also stretching the floor by making three of his four 3-point attempts. It covered up a pedestrian night for James, who just had 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

The worst news for Portland wasn’t the loss but Lillard’s finger injury, which will no doubt affect his shooting. The Trail Blazers are relying on Lillard to score in bunches, and if he can’t then it’ll be a tough hill for them to climb. Carmelo Anthony is capable of having a great game, but relying on him to be a consistent 20-point scorer is a big ask, and C.J. McCollum has struggled offensively since the NBA season resumed earlier this month. I’m not sure Portland has anyone else who can step up to replace the lost production from Lillard’s injury.

The New Jersey online sports betting sites only list the Lakers as seven-point favorites in this game, which is a big shock to me. Los Angeles won by 23 points on Tuesday and that was with James struggling on offense. The Lakers should easily roll past Portland in Game 3 as Lillard adjusts to whatever he has to wear on his dislocated finger in order to play Saturday. The best odds on this game would be to take the Lakers laying the seven points at -110 odds, so I guess that’s what we’ll bet on this game.

BET ON LOS ANGELES LAKERS TO WIN

Game 4 (Los Angeles Lakers lead 2-1)

August 24th, 9 p.m., AdventHealth Arena, Time, Arena

Anthony Davis and LeBron James once again looked like the dynamic duo committed to leading the Los Angeles Lakers back to the top of the NBA on Saturday night. Both of them shot 11 of 18 from the field and combined for 67 points to help power the Lakers past the Portland Trail Blazers and give Los Angeles its first lead in the series. The Lakers defense limited Portland to just 41-percent shooting in the game as Los Angeles made half of its shots.

It’s certainly a unique problem when your star forward is too unselfish with the ball, but Davis was looking too much for his teammates in the first half, according to his coach. When Davis committed to scoring for himself, he made a big difference in taking the scoring load off James and dropping 23 points in the second half. It certainly hid the fact that the Lakers not named Anthony Davis or LeBron James shot just 40 percent from the field, but they did plenty more on the defensive end to hold the normally high-scoring Trail Blazers in check. Portland made just 12 of 35 3-point attempts and Jusuf Nurkic had just 10 points in 35 minutes.

If there was any concern about Damian Lillard’s finger, it was out the window pretty quickly. He wasn’t nearly as efficient as he could have been, but he still poured in 34 points on 40 percent shooting and 13 of 14 at the free throw line. CJ McCollum added 28 points and Carmelo Anthony scored 20 big ones, but it didn’t matter as the Trail Blazers had no answer for the Lakers’ two superstars. That’s an issue a lot of teams will have in the postseason, but Portland’s chances in this series moving forward hinge on them being able to slow down one or both of Los Angeles’ dynamic duo.

The Lakers are 7.5-point favorites for Game 4, according to the New Jersey online sports betting sites, and that’s just too close to comfort for me. Los Angeles is a very good team, but it only won by eight points Saturday and took advantage of Lillard being out longer than expected in Game 2 to cruise to an easy victory. Los Angeles should win Game 4 on Monday, but I don’t know if it can cover that spread given how close these two teams really have been at full strength in this series. The odds aren’t great on the Lakers on the moneyline at -315, but it’s the safest bet on Los Angeles I can provide.

BET ON LOS ANGELES LAKERS TO WIN

 

Game 5 (Los Angeles Lakers lead 3-1)

August 26th, 9 p.m., AdventHealth Arena

All of the signs were pointing to the Los Angeles Lakers winning Game 4 on Monday, but the final one came in the first quarter. The Lakers jumped out to a 24-8 lead over the Portland Trail Blazers on a day dedicated to Kobe Bryant, and Los Angeles never looked back. LeBron James had 30 points and 10 assists in three quarters as he was able to take the fourth quarter to rest in the blowout victory. Five other Lakers joined him in double figures as the team shot 56.3 percent from the field.

Los Angeles does have a slight issue in the health of Anthony Davis’ back after the forward left the victory with back spasms. Davis’ status is less important for Game 5 as it is the future of the playoffs, but he’s a big part of the Lakers’ plan to slow down Jusuf Nurkic, who once again put up 20 points and 10 rebounds against Los Angeles. If Davis has to miss any time, the Lakers will likely have to adjust to an even more guard-oriented lineup, but that might suit the Lakers well against the Trail Blazers. Kyle Kuzma could easily fit that role as a hybrid wing player and make a big difference in extended minutes again.

It’s hard to read anything into this performance from Portland because the Trail Blazers were really out of this game before halftime even arrived. Portland had eight players score in double figures, which is a positive in some respects, and the Trail Blazers even got a chance to rest some of their stars after a taxing two-week sprint into the NBA playoffs. The issue still centers around how the Trail Blazers are going to limit the damage Davis and James do and force the other Lakers to beat them. It’s what worked for Portland in Game 1 and the best chance it has to win another game in this series aside from Damian Lillard having an insane shooting performance that no one can predict.

I’d love to think that the Trail Blazers could extend the series another game, but it just doesn’t seem likely after the way the last three games have played out. Los Angeles has controlled every game since being upset in Game 1, and I don’t expect that will change Wednesday. James can win a game like this by himself, but if Davis is healthy again, the two of them won’t need much help to match and exceed whatever Lillard produces for Portland. The New Jersey online sports betting sites agree with me by making Los Angeles heavy favorites on the moneyline and 12.5-point favorites on the spread for Game 5. If I have to choose between those two wagers, I’d pick the Lakers at -850 odds on the moneyline, but that isn’t a great bet.

BET ON LOS ANGELES LAKERS TO WIN

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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