Road to the Repeat: First Round Preview?

The Lakers (56-23) clinched the Western Conference after their 97-88 win against Minnesota.

Now the Portland Trailblazers (48-31) come to town looking to avoid a first-round matchup against the defending champs.

Last Friday, the Lakers took care of their seeding for at least the Western Conference. So no matter what, they’ll retain the number one seed in the West.

With no particular reason to put any emphasis to the game on the Lakers’ end, the Blazers’, however, hope to win to boost their spot in the playoffs.

As the current standings show, Portland is the number 8 seed.

Despite L.A.’s troubles against the Blazers, Portland has dropped 14 of 16 in the Staples Center.

With Kobe expecting to play, the Lakers will be looking to follow that trend.

The last meeting the two had was at the Rose Garden where the Kobe-less Lake Show won 99-82.

The Lakers will have to contain Brandon Roy as he is the Trail Blazers team leader,and the team seems to play as well as he does. But this shouldn’t be much of a problem, because in his only three appearances in the Staples Center he has averaged a mediocore 14.7 points on 36 percent shooting.

Expect the bench to have more time. If Kobe and the rest of the key players participate in the game, it shouldn’t be for long. Rest can be much needed for the starters, as more minutes can be beneficial for the bench as well.

Projected Starters:

LAKERS:

(C) P. GASOL
(PF) L. ODOM
(SF) R. ARTEST
(SG) K. BRYANT
(PG) D. FISHER

INJURIES:
A. Bynum (left achilles) is out.

TRAIL BLAZERS:

(C) M. CAMBY
(PF) L. ALDRIDGE
(SF) N. BATUM
(SG) B. ROY
(PG) A. MILLER

INJURIES:
G. Oden (knee) is out.
J. Pryzbilla (knee) is out.
M. Camby (hamstring) is day to day.
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