It’s going to be a thrilling contest that features two franchises that are hoping to break through and make a push towards the playoffs, but two franchises that still have a long and arduous road ahead of them if that is to happen.
Let’s take a look at where you can watch this critical contest and note which players you should keep an eye on. We will also take a peek at the latest injury report, make a prediction on the outcome and much more.
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: Friday, Feb. 22 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Watch: CSNN (POR), TWC SoCal 101 (LAL)
Live Stream: NBA League Pass (subscription required)
Records: Portland Trail Blazers (25-29) at Los Angeles Lakers (26-29)
Lakers Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
F Pau Gasol, Out, Foot
F Jordan Hill, Out, Hip
Trail Blazers Injury Report (via CBS Sports)
G Wesley Matthews, Questionable, Ankle
G Ronnie Price, Questionable, Ankle
G Elliot Williams, Out, Achilles
Key Storyline: Playoffs
A chance to get back into postseason contention will be on the line when these two Western Conference foes step onto the hardwood, as both are within a single game of each other and standing just outside the playoff picture after the All-Star break.
That makes this matchup extremely important, as the victor will not only have the inside track to sneak into the top eight teams in the conference, but they will also obtain a slight edge over the other main competitor in that race.
It seems as though Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and the rest of the Lakers superstars realize the urgency of their current situation, as they came out and earned a big victory against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
Portland didn’t seem as concerned, though, faltering to the lowly Phoenix Suns on Tuesday and giving up prime positioning ahead of L.A.
Keep a close eye on these two teams, as the winner is certainly going to be the side that not only wants to win this contest, but a playoff appearance as well.
Key Matchup: Dwight Howard vs. J.J. Hickson
While it will be interesting to see how Kobe Bryant does against Nicolas Batum, the true battle of this contest will occur in the low post between Howard and Hickson. Also, Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark need to prove that they can handle defensive duties against LaMarcus Aldridge.
Howard came through with a monster game against the C’s on Wednesday, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting along with 12 rebounds in 30 minutes of play. He looked much better than he did prior to All-Star Weekend, and it seems that his torn labrum in his shoulder isn’t as bothersome as it was before.
However, he will have his hands full against a motivated Hickson, a player that has had his name thrown around in various trade rumors and scenarios over the past few weeks.
With the deadline cut-off taking place on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, we imagine that the big man will be looking to prove something to the Blazers’ brass if he is still on the roster for this game.
Hickson went off on Tuesday in the loss to Phoenix, piling up 25 points and 16 rebounds in 39 minutes of play. He could be even more ready to dominate come Friday evening.
It’s going to be a close one at the Staples Center, but the edge goes to the Lakers.
Which team wins this contest?
They seem hungry and motivated after some much-needed rest, and it’s going to be surprising if they drop one to the slumping Blazers—a squad fresh off a loss to the worst team in the conference.
There is too much at stake and too much pride on the line for L.A. to continue stumbling, so expect Bryant to lead a late surge to help his Lakers overcome Portland and continue their ascent to the postseason.
Final Score Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 102, Portland Trail Blazers 97