Trail Blazers vs. Lakers: Players Who Will Be Huge in Playoff Contention Battle

Tyson AgbayaniCorrespondent IFebruary 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 28:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the basket in front of LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center on December 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers won 104-87.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

It’s starting to feel like old times again as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers will be squaring off in a huge playoff implication battle this Friday.

Both teams will be looking to get a huge win, as each team currently trails the Houston Rockets for the final seed in the Western Conference.

The Lakers are currently ranked ninth in the West as they trail the Rockets by three-and-a-half games, while the Trail Blazers sit right behind with four.

Friday’s game is a must-win for both teams and a battle is expected. Here are three players other than Kobe Bryant and LaMarcus Aldridge that will come up huge for their squads.

Nicolas Batum

There is something about the Lakers that seems to bring out the best in Nicolas Batum.

In two games against the Lakers this season, Batum has averaged 18 points and 5.5 rebounds. Batum has proven that he can impact games both on the defensive and offensive end and Friday’s game shouldn’t be any different. Look for Batum to come up big tonight in Los Angeles.

Dwight Howard

If there was one thing to take away from Wednesday’s battle against the Boston Celtics, it’s that Dwight Howard hasn't given up.

In Wednesday’s contest, Howard had one of his better all-around efforts as he put up 24 points and 12 rebounds. The Blazers essentially have no one who can guard him straight up and it has shown, as Howard has averaged 27 points and 14 rebounds in the two previous contests. Howard will have another big game tonight and could be main reason the Lakers take home the victory.

Damian Lillard

The one player that could prove to be the X-factor in Friday’s showdown is Damian Lillard.

Lillard has been exceptional in his rookie season and has proven that he doesn’t shy away from big games. The 22-year-old will be looking to rebound in Friday’s matchup with the Lakers, as he turned in a blunder the last time they met, putting up 11 points on 4-17 shooting. With Steve Nash expected to guard Lillard for most of the game, the Rookie of the Year candidate should be able to put up some big numbers.