Everybody knows the Blazers have won nine games in a row against the Lakers in the Rose Garden. It's the longest home winning streak against the Lakers in the NBA. But tonight will be Portland's toughest test during that streak against Los Angeles. With Roy, Oden, Przybilla, and Outlaw out, and the Lakers at near full strength, it is almost mission impossible.
Since torching Dallas for 52 points four games ago, Andre Miller hasn't shot well. Fortunately during this recent stretch he's still averaging eight assists a game, including 10 in each win against Charlotte and San Antonio. We'll need that same distribution mentality tonight against the Lakers.
As always, Derek Fisher isn't much of a threat offensively, he's just a nice compliment to Kobe. He'll hit a few clutch shots, and play decent defense but nothing that Andre and Steve Blake won't overcome.
There is still some uncertainty about whether or not Brandon Roy will play in this game. Part of me wants him to come back, but if he is uncertain at all, I would rather he didn't play. We need that hamstring completely healed for the stretch run. UPDATE: Roy is OUT.
Obviously without Roy, this match-up leans heavily towards the Lakers. I think Bayless and Rudy will contribute in a lot of ways, but if Bryant is healthy enough, he's going to be focused on winning at the Rose Garden.
This could end up being one of the more intriguing match-ups tonight. Martell caught fire against the Spurs and Nicolas Batum has played very well and will get up for this game.
Ron Artest clearly isn't the focal point on the Lakers, but he's been a solid addition. The real x-factor is Shannon Brown. If Portland elects not to play defense, Brown could be one of the guys who kills us. I have a good feeling though, it's going to be Nic's night and Martell will hit some treys. Blazers take it.
With Pau Gasol back and playing well and Lamar Odom coming off the bench, the Lakers' power forward position is the best in the league by far. Our only real option is LaMarcus, who has been playing great lately but will undoubtedly have trouble defending and blocking out Gasol. If this game gets out of control in the wrong direction, Gasol and Odom will be the catalysts.
Andrew Bynum is about as inconsistent as big men come in the NBA right now. If he likes a match-up, he can torch his opponent, but if it's too much work he'll disappear. Now I know we don't have any huge defenders to stop him, but I've got a feeling that Juwan Howard has a few old man tricks up his sleeve to make Bynum work. I'm going with the Blazers' mediums to outplay the over rated Andrew Bynum!