Coach Mike D'Antoni could look to Kobe Bryant for defensive duties… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The Lakers (26-28) host the Portland Trail Blazers (25-29) on Friday night at Staples Center.
The two have met two times already this season, both teams winning on their home floors.
The Lakers recently climbed into ninth place in the standings, ahead of the Blazers by just half a game.
Given the Lakers hope to climb into the top eight to make the playoffs, they'll need to lock in a 2-1 series lead with a win. The two meet a final time in Portland on April 10.
The Blazers rely on five players. No one off the bench averages more than 4.1 points a game.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge is a tough cover, averaging 21 points a game this season.
After guarding Kevin Garnett on Wednesday against the Celtics, Earl Clark will have the opportunity to go against another All-Star in Aldridge.
If the Lakers can contain him (even slightly), they should be able to muscle out the win, given Portland's lack of depth.
Damian Lillard is one of the brightest (and explosive) young point guards in the league. If he's able to break the Lakers down off the dribble all night, the Lakers will be in trouble.
Steve Nash is no match for Lillard defensively, but Coach Mike D'Antoni could look to Kobe Bryant and other Lakers to slow Lillard.
Offensively, the Lakers need Dwight Howard and Nash to continue building on their chemistry as a duo. Their play against the Celtics showed that the Lakers may finally be figuring out how to play pick and roll.
The Lakers have an opportunity Friday -- one they can't let slip away.
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