Fresh off sweeping their road trip, the Los Angeles Lakers draw a red-hot Portland Trail Blazers team that’s won six in a row and eight of their last 10. As a result, the Trail Blazers have vaulted up to third place in the Western Conference standings.
“They’ve done an amazing job this year of turning into a defensive team. They get a lot of stops,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton said at Monday’s shootaround. “They’ve always had the offensive firepower and now that they’re committed to playing defense the way that they are, they’re a heck of a team.
“Watching tape on them, they present a lot of challenges. It’s going to be one of those games where we’ve got to be completely locked in and willing to make multiple efforts on pretty much every possession.”
Portland’s 104.2 defensive rating ranks seventh in the league, while their 105.5 offensive rating is more middle of the pack at 16th overall. They’ve held opponents to 100 points or fewer in four games during their winning streak.
Not to be outdone, the Lakers are in the midst of a season-best five-game winning streak. It’s the fifth time this season they’ve won at least four games in a row. Moreover, the Lakers have won nine consecutive games at Staples Center, last suffering a home loss on Jan. 5.
Although they’re riding high, the Lakers, already without Josh Hart, won’t have Brandon Ingram available. An MRI confirmed Ingram suffered a groin strain in last week’s win over the Miami Heat, and he’s due to be re-evaluated in approximately one week.
Without Ingram, more responsibility falls to the likes of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle. Ball is coming off a career-high six 3-pointers, and is shooting 63.6 percent behind the arc in four games since returning from an MCL sprain.
Ball will also be tested defensively, as he figures to find himself guarding Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum. Jusuf Nurkic poses a challenge for the Lakers’ big men, as he’s averaging 17.8 points per game, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks this season.
Los Angeles Lakers (28-34) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (37-26)
7:30 PM PST, March 5, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
TV: Spectrum Sports Net
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Isaiah Thomas, Ivica Zubac
Trail Blazers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Damian Lillard
SG: CJ McCollum
SF: Evan Turner
PF: Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Jusuf Nurkic
Key Reserves: Zach Collins, at Connaughton, Shabazz Napier