Blazing a Trail; Lakers Welcome Portland to Staples

Starting Line-ups:

PG: Derek Fisher – Andre Miller

SG: Kobe Bryant – Wesley Matthews

SF: Ron Artest – Nicolas Batum

PF: Lamar Odom – Gerald Wallace

C: Pau Gasol – LaMarcus Aldridge

The Trail Blazers have won three straight games after switching their starting line-up around. Coach Nate McMillan decided to go small with LaMarcus Aldridge at center and Gerald Wallace at the power forward spot. Marcus Camby recently has been dealing with an aggravating knee injury that has bothered him throughout his career. Portland will be a playoff competitor when the post-season comes around since they are only one game ahead of New Orleans in the 6th spot.

Portland’s franchise player Brandon Roy, who has been dealing with career threatening injuries on his knees, has been looking to regain to his old skills once again. Wesley Matthews will continue to start over Roy as Brandon’s minutes are limited each game.

The Lakers have been rolling winning, nine out of their last 10 games. In their last game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, center Andrew Bynum received a flagrant two foul after elbowing Michael Beasley in the air, knocking him straight to the hardwood. A short suspension looms over Bynum, who will miss tonight’s match with Portland and next Tuesday’s game with the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers played a lousy first three quarters against Minnesota, but started to pick up the tempo in the fourth with 13-3 run.

The defending champs will play at home against the Trail Blazers looking for their 50th win of the season. With 13 games left in the regular season, the purple and gold are making a strong push and bold statement in the league that they are ready to chase their third straight title.

Keys to victory:

Contain Batum and Fernandez – Young French forward Nicolas Batum dropped 22 points on the Lakers in their last meeting and averages 10.5 points against L.A. Rudy Fernandez is a spark off the bench for Portland against Los Angeles as he averages 11.5 points and 43% from behind the arc against the purple and gold.

Size is a factor – With Camby dealing with an injury and coming off the bench the Lakers need to start strong with their big men. The Lakers need to find some scoring coming from Odom and Gasol. The quicker they score, the easier L.A. can pull away.

Killer B’s – Barnes, Brown, and Blake combined for 32 points in the last game against the Wolves. They shot 11-19 off the bench. Blake would love to play that well tonight against his former team, Brown stirs the tempo, and Barnes has averaged 2 steals in 17 minutes of play in the last two games.

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