On the day that former Lakers owner Jerry Buss was laid to rest, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to make up some ground in the West with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers are coming off one of their best team performances of the season, beating their hated rival Boston Celtics, 113-99, on Wednesday.
Los Angeles is three games below .500, just as they were two weeks ago after the win in Charlotte. Kobe Bryant recently told Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated, “It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will.” If Bryant is to be believed, the Lakers need to put together a string of wins in order to keep up with the streaking, eighth place Houston Rockets. Houston has a tough game against the Nets in Brooklyn tonight. Houston struggles on the road and the Nets are 20-10 at Barclay’s Center so the Lakers can potentially pick up a full game on the Rockets tonight with a win.
Friday night’s matchup is the third of four between Los Angeles and Portland, with the teams splitting the two previous games. The Lakers, much like they did against Boston, need to continue feeding the ball into the post, specifically to Dwight Howard. Howard who looked fresh and aggressive on Wednesday posted a double-double with 24 points and 12 boards, going 10-13 from the field. Another big game from Howard could help create an identity for the Lakers in the second half of the season. Howard is averaging 27.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.0 blocks a game in the Lakers two games versus the Trail Blazers this season.
Portland (25-29) is a spot behind Los Angeles in the West and will overtake the eighth spot with a win tonight. The Blazers backcourt was strengthened when they acquired Eric Maynor from the Thunder less than an hour before the trade deadline yesterday. Maynor will give Portland some quality backup minutes at the point guard spot behind rookie sensation Damian Lillard. However, Maynor is unlikely to play tonight. Portland will have a size and skill advantage at the power forward spot with their star big man LaMarcus Aldridge being guarded by Earl Clark. If the Trail Blazers are to get a win on the road tonight, Damian Lillard must have a big game. Lillard averages 17.0 points and 7.5 assists against the Lakers this year but he’ll need to post double digits assists to give Portland a shot against a motivated Lakers squad.
#15 World Peace SF #88 Batum
#6 Clark PF #12 Aldridge
#12 Howard C #21 Hickson
#24 Bryant SG #18 Claver
#10 Nash PG #0 Lillard
The game tips-off at 7:30PM PT at Staples Center on TWC SportsNet and ESPNLA 710.
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