The Los Angeles Lakers (41-37) are traveling to take on the Portland Trail Blazers (33-44) in a must-win game.
On Tuesday night, L.A. nabbed sole possession of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff race and is looking to hold on with just four games left in the regular season.
It’s not going to be easy in Portland, a place that the Lakers have traditionally struggled to pick up wins. However, Los Angeles is getting hot at the right time and fortunately meet with a banged-up Trail Blazer squad that is in the midst of an eight-game tailspin.
Regardless, the Lakers cannot overlook their opponent, so keep reading to find out which player needs to step up for L.A. to coast to a win (and which Trail Blazer would be instrumental to pulling off an upset), plus our prediction on the final score and much more.
When: Wednesday, April 10, at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Garden, Portland, Ore.
Watch: TWC SN (LAL), KGW (POR)
Live Stream: NBA League Pass
Lakers Injury Report (via USA Today)
F Devin Ebanks, Lung, Questionable
G Steve Nash, Hip, Doubtful
C Jordan Hill, Hip, Out
Trail Blazers Injury Report (via USA Today)
C J.J. Hickson, Lower Back, Questionable
G Wesley Matthews, Ankle, Doubtful
F Nicolas Batum, Shoulder, Doubtful
G Aleksandar Pavlovic, Quadricep, Out
G Elliot Williams, Achilles, Out
Lakers Player to Watch: Kobe Bryant
If the Lakers are going to snap their string of three straight losses to the Blazers on the road, the Black Mamba is going to need to step up. That is, if he has anything left.
Against the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday evening, Bryant scored 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, helping L.A. erase a late deficit and claim a much-needed victory.
The Mamba even admitted he was tired and would have preferred to save his legs, stating that he was thinking (h/t ESPN): “Aw ... I got to go in again and I really didn't want to, it's about conserving energy. The more I can kind of lag in the weeds the better."
If he’s not able to muster up enough to give a solid 35 minutes against Portland in the second leg of a back-to-back stretch, the Lakers could be in trouble.
Make sure you tune in to see if Kobe can get it going for the second consecutive night on Wednesday.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: Damian Lillard
The likely Rookie of the Year winner is going to be the best player the Blazers put on the floor in this one, especially after a rash of injuries recently decimated this lineup.
Lillard is averaging a solid 18.8 points, 6.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds during the 2012-13 campaign and has won his fifth consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month award for March.
This young man is a prolific scorer from anywhere on the court and is nearly impossible to shut down on defense, so it will be interesting to see how coach Mike D’Antoni elects to guard him.
While Bryant would be a good option as one of the Lakers' best perimeter defenders, he needs to save his legs for offensive production and, potentially, the upcoming postseason.
It’s worth watching to see how the Lakers wind up playing defense against this superstar rookie.
While this one could be close considering the location and the teams involved, we’re giving the edge to Los Angeles.
Which team wins?
The Lakers have worked hard to put themselves in a position to nab a playoff spot in 2013 and finally are in the driver’s seat with a few games remaining. They cannot afford to—and likely won’t—lose to a subpar opponent with nothing left to play for.
As long as the aging veterans on the L.A. roster have enough heart and fight left in them to muster up another good performance in this back half of a back-to-back contest, the Purple and Gold should emerge victorious.
Projected Final Score: Lakers 97 – Blazers 91