On Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers look to win their fourth straight home game, but the Portland Trail Blazers do not offer any homecoming gifts. Arguably, the Blazers have been the most surprising team in the NBA this season. At 13-3 on the season, Portland is currently tied with Miami for the second best record in the NBA, and the Blazers have won nine of their last 10 games.
The Lakers have won five of the last six and are trending in the right direction, so Sunday night should be fun.
Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol both suffered sprained ankles and sat out Saturday’s Lakers practice, but Sunday morning, news spread that both took part in shootaround and would play against the Blazers. Gasol has slowly increased production, and the Spaniard now leads the team in points and rebounds.
Averaging 19 points and nine rebounds over the past five games, Gasol is approaching the 20 points and 10 rebounds figures often associated with an All-Star. Gasol’s increased production has coincided with the Spaniard getting inside the paint and positioning himself closer to the basket--rather than settling for 20-foot jump shots. Consequently, his field goal percentage is over 50 percent over the past five games.
For Portland, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge continue to progress in their NBA careers. Aldridge is averaging the 22 points and 10 rebounds per game, making him a sure-fire All-Star this season. Lillard is not far behind, averaging 20 points, six assists, and four rebounds.
Over the summer, the Blazers filled out the roster with role players, and the additions have fit well. Portland added Robin Lopez and Mo Williams. Lopez starts and has always had a reputation for being a defensive-minded player. He leads the team in blocks, but his 7-foot frame changes countless shots during the course of the game, and Lopez offers a strong presence on the boards.
In his 12th season, Williams is on his sixth NBA team and is serving as the Blazers’ sixth man. Averaging nine points and five assists in 25 minutes per game, Williams has played a vital role in the Blazers’ fast start.
Portland is 7-2 on the road this season, so the Lakers face one of the premier road teams in the NBA this young season. The last time the Blazers took the floor, however, they lost in Phoenix. That snapped an 11-game winning streak, and the Lakers will hope to catch the Blazers wobbling from the loss.
Tip-off for Lakers and Blazers at Staples Center is 6:30 pm PST.