Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: KGW. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’3″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8″, France), PF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7″, Alabama), C LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11″, Texas)
Projected Los Angeles Starting Lineup: PG Derek Fisher (#2, 6’1″, Arkansas – Little Rock), SG Kobe Bryant (#24, 6’6″, Lower Merion High School), SF Ron Artest (#15, 6’7″, St. John’s), PF Lamar Odom (#7, 6’10″, Rhode Island), C Pau Gasol (#16, 7′, Spain)
The Blazers are in a tricky position tonight: they want to beat the Lakers so as to solidify their hold on the sixth seed, precisely because they don’t want to play these same Lakers in the first round. If they pull out a win tonight, it will likely kick off all sorts of suggestions that, hey, maybe these Blazers do have a shot at a first-round upset even if they draw LA. I don’t want to find out whether that’s true.
The Lakers have lost three games in a row, but they’re still the Lakers. If anything, we should be worried by their losing streak: this close to the start of the playoffs, how hungry will Kobe Bryant be not to drop four straight? Additionally, Marcus Camby is still out tonight with the same back injury that sidelined him in Utah last night. This would be a problem against most teams, but it is especially so against the Lakers, whose front line is the best in the league.
In order for Portland to finish sixth, they have to go 2-1 the rest of the way and the Hornets have to go 2-2. Of the three games the Blazers have left—this one, and Memphis and Golden State next week—this is the one most likely to be their loss to give, but we’d rather not have it come to that. Better to win out and not have to worry about what New Orleans does.