Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers: 4 Keys to Victory

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 16: Kyle Kuzma
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 16: Kyle Kuzma /

A look at 4 things the Los Angeles Lakers may look to accomplish against the Trail Blazers in order to become Summer League champions.

After a poor start to the summer league, the Los Angeles Lakers have rallied back to win five straight with a 108-98 victory versus the Dallas Mavericks to advance to the finals, where they will face the Portland Trailblazers.

With the Summer League championship at stake, here are four things the Lakers may look to do in order to become the summer league tournament winners.

Key # 1: Keep feeding Kuzma and Blue

Somewhat surprisingly, the Los Angeles Lakers leading scorer throughout Summer League has been the former Utah product Kyle Kuzma, who has averaged roughly 20 points a game.

Therefore, it is crucial that the team looks to get him going early offensively as they will need all the scoring they can get from him in order to secure the win against a formidable opponent in Portland.

Look for Kuzma to continue spotting up for three where he has been effective thus far, as well as leaking out in transition for the easy bucket.

Moreover, look for Vander Blue to make an impact on the game offensively, as he has been very effective in his last two games, scoring 27 and 17 respectively.

These players offensive performances become even more important given Lonzo Ball’s recent injury concerns, which may limit the number of minutes he will be on the floor and could minimize one of the teams scoring threats for stretches of the game.

Key # 2: Contain Caleb Swanigan

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 12: Caleb Swanigan
LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 12: Caleb Swanigan /

During seven games in the Las Vegas summer league, Swanigan has led his team in points and rebounds in three of their games.

What makes Swanigan difficult to guard is not only his impressive strength, courtesy of his 6’9″ 250-pound frame which allows him to effectively bang down low in the post, but also his ability to stretch the floor.

Before his 0-for-4 outing from beyond the arc against Memphis, Swanigan shot a decent 33% from three, making him a scoring threat from all areas of the court.

Furthermore, the big man also averaged roughly 10 rebounds per game, 3.5 of which were offensive rebounds giving his team second chance opportunities.

Therefore, given the Purdue products important contribution to the team, it will be very important that Los Angeles big men such as Zubac, Bryant, and Kuzma clog up the paint as to not allow Swanigan easy points or rebounds inside.

They will also need to get a body on him on the perimeter, as although not a lights-out shooter, Swanigan is able to knock down a shot from distance relatively well, and could hurt them from deep if left open.

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Key # 3: Tighten up on defense overall

Defense has not been a strength for the Lakers so far in Summer League, as they have been involved in a number of high scoring games in which they relied on their offensive prowess to get the win over getting stops on the defensive end.

This is evidenced by the fact that Los Angeles has had an average defensive rating of around 103  during their seven games heading into the finals, meaning that they allowed over 100 points per 100 possessions.

To put this into perspective, their finals opponents the Portland Trail Blazers have a much better defensive rating average of approximately 92, allowing about 11 fewer points than the Lakers per 100 possessions.

As such, the Lakers must tighten up defensively against the Blazers as they are going up against a team with multiple offensive threats, with four of their players averaging double digits in points.

Key # 4: Do not be afraid to shoot threes

Lastly, while the Lakers have had trouble from beyond the arc at points during the Summer League, one reason they have gone on this winning streak has been due to their improved three-point shooting as of late.

In their last three games, the Lakers have converted on a phenomenal 54.7% of their three-point attempts, including a red-hot 77% in the semi-finals.

Thus, considering their recent success, Los Angeles should not be afraid to let it go from deep, which will subsequently increase floor spacing and stretch out the Blazers on defense to open up the driving lanes for better looks at the rim as well.

Next: Lakers vs Trail Blazers: 5 Players to watch

In sum, look for the Lakers to continue to shoot the ball from beyond the arc to put pressure on Portland’s defense as they look to be crowned summer league champions.

* Statistical data courtesy of  basketball.realgm.com and nba.com*