With the Boston Celtics losing this afternoon to the New York Knicks, all the Lakers had to do to take over the top spot in the league-wide standings was beat a Portland Trailblazers team that was playing without its pest player. No problem at all, as L.A. picked up its sixth straight victory by beating the Blazers 100-86 at Staples Center.
Brandon Roy was sitting out his third straight game with a hamstring injury, and his club was really no match for the Lakers without him. After the Blazers gave L.A. some trouble in the first quarter, the Lakers outscored them by 21 points over the next two periods, and put this one away for good on Lamar Odom's three-pointer with just under seven minutes left that extended the Laker lead to 19 at 88-69.
The Lakers were without Luke Walton, who arrived in street clothes and sat out with a foot injury. Trevor Ariza got the start in his place, but ended up with just four points and five rebounds in 33 minutes of play. Vladimir Radmanovic, who had the starting spot before Walton did, came off the bench to contribute 16 points in just 18 minutes. Vlad-Rad started slowly by picking up a couple of early fouls, but hit his shots later on and would probably be a better fit in the starting lineup than Ariza is. Trevor's energy with the bench unit is something that the team sorely needs, and starting Radmanovic would seem to be a somewhat natural move for the team, considering the fact that they began the season by placing him in that role, and achieved mostly successful results by doing so.
A Blazers team without its best player is hardly a test for these Lakers, especially at home. Next up is Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night, and since the Lakers had little trouble with the Hornets in two early season meetings in New Orleans, they should be able to handle them without issue here in Los Angeles -- whether Luke Walton is available to return to the starting lineup or not.