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The Lakers play host to the Blazers in an incredibly important game tonight at Staples. Can the Lakers build on the big win against Boston, or will they go back to flailing as they have so often?
7:30 p.m. PST
The Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers battle on the Staples Center floor tonight. Like two gladiators fighting to the death as the crowd roars for blood, these two teams should display desperation when they face off. In an extremely tight race for the final playoff seeding that is tucked away with the Houston Rockets like a precious diamond, tonight's game is incredibly important for both teams hunt of dancing in the post-season.
The Trail Blazers will take the floor with the stink of a six-game losing streak trailing them. Things having gone well for Portland in the month of February, and the Lakers have finally moved past them in the Western Conference standings. Still, the Blazers are only a half game back from Los Angeles, and could still pose threat to being the eighth said when it's all said and done.
Tonight will be a night where the Lakers desperately miss Pau Gasol. Without a secondary big, the Lakers will have to rely on Dwight Howard covering big man LaMarcus Aldridge. That's all fine and dandy, aside from the fact that Aldridge can pull Howard away from under the rim, where he needs to anchor an already shaky defense. Sure, Mike D'Antoni can throw Earl Clark at the 6'11 Aldridge, but that's not going to end well.
That leaves space in the paint for the Blazers to attack, and with rookie point guard Damian Lillard, they should be able to do that without pause. With Steve Nash's defensive deficiencies, Lillard can isolate Steve without a problem. Will D'Antoni elect to hide Nash and assign Kobe Bryant to stop the point guard?
On the other hand, the Blazers defense is going to have to stop a Lakers team that looked downright dominant against the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. The pick and roll game was fluent, Howard was aggressive, and Kobe made the right plays at the right time. We've seen this script from the Lakers many times this season -- they play well in a single game and we wait for them to build on it -- but with only 27 games left to become greater than this broken promise of greatness perhaps finally... finally... they do just that.
Yes, they've won a good portion of their games over the last few weeks. But those wins were sloppy and didn't have the fulfilling nature of the win against the Celtics. Then again, most wins don't have the same perfect mix of seasoning to bite into the way that wins against the green do. The product on the court, through, was beautiful. It could be called baby steps for the team, but that wouldn't leave many metaphors to call what they had amounted to consistently prior to this outing.
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