Stephen Dunn / Getty Images (mbpovgp720121010223611/600 )
The Lakers (14-15) host the Portland Trail Blazers (14-13) on Friday night. The two teams met previously on Oct. 31, the second game of the year in a 116-106 Blazers victory in Portland.
It was the same game Steve Nash fractured his leg, which set the Lakers on the recent tumultuous course.
The Blazers have five players who average double figures, led by LaMarcus Aldridge (21.1 points) and likely rookie of the year Damian Lillard (18.6).
The Lakers are coming off a loss to the Denver Nuggets, which ended their five-game winning streak. The team announced Thursday that forward Pau Gasol is probable for the Blazers game despite getting diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
The Lakers are a different team when they play defense. Nash's return has helped on both sides of the ball but how will he fare when matched up with Lillard?
Ty Lawson of the Nuggets was difficult for Nash and the Lakers to cover. Lillard won't be any easier.
Of course the Blazers will need to get stops against Nash and the Lakers. Portland gives up 99.4 points a game this season, 2.2 more than they score (97.6).
Nicolas Batum is a long, skilled defender who has had some success against Kobe Bryant in the past, at least relatively speaking.
Batum is a stat stuffer, getting points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and hitting threes. On the season, Batum is averaging 16.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
The Lakers continue to rely heavily on Metta World Peace. He struggled against the Nuggets and so did the Lakers.
Neither the Lakers nor Blazers have much depth — which favors the Lakers.
It's been a long, long time since the second game of the season, and while the Lakers still haven't hit their stride, they're a lot better than they were in October.
Look for the Lakers to start a new win streak on Friday.
Lakers lose to the Nuggets, 126-114
Pau Gasol says Lakers 'on the right path'
Dwight Howard two flagrant foul points away from automatic suspension
Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.