The NBA Playoff opening games conclude with Game 1 between the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday evening.
The Trail Blazers earned their way into the postseason after going 7-2 in the Orlando bubble prior to the postseason, which included defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in game for the eighth seed.
Portland star and bubble MVP Damian Lillard has been a monster so far as he averaged 37.3 points per game and 9.6 assists per game prior to the postseason. He is going to be the heart and soul of the Blazers in this series versus the top-seeded Lakers. It will be a tough task as he will be asked to score at least 30 points each game and play a hefty amount of minutes.
Lillard’s backcourt tandem with CJ McCollum will need to see more consistency from the shooting guard. McCollum has not been impressive since the resumption. He has all the talent to give a 30-point performance but has yet to be the guy to ease the pressure off of Lillard.
Forward Zach Collins will miss Game 1, so it will be up to Hassan Whiteside and rookie Wenyen Gabriel to give Portland scoring depth to match Anthony Davis and LeBron James.
Carmelo Anthony will also need to be a consistent scoring option to give the Lakers problems defensively. If Portland can get two other players to score 20-plus points per game, then they have a legitimate shot of upsetting the Lakers.
For the Lakers, it is simple, Davis and James will dominate. They will carry the load and score most of the points. What could become a problem for Los Angeles is if no one else can become a consistent scorer. Kyle Kuzma has been inconsistent all season long and Danny Green is having one of his least productive seasons ever. If James has to become a scorer and playmaker in the same game, it will force him to take defensive stands off and the Lakers will surrender a lot of points, even as one of the better defensive teams in basketball.
The unsung hero who will need to make things happen for the Lakers if no one else is doing well is Alex Caruso. Caruso provides quality defense for the Lakers and can make the necessary plays to set up open shots for LA’s wingers. It will be vital for him to get a substantial amount of playing time if the Lakers want to cruise through this round.
Predictions: Lakers in 6