Trail Blazers Vs. Lakers Preview
March 3, 2014
By TAYLOR BECHTOLD
The Portland Trail Blazers have excelled as the NBA's highest-scoring team, though a strong defensive effort has spearheaded their latest winning streak.
With LaMarcus Aldridge back, the suddenly defensive-minded Blazers seek their sixth straight win Monday night against a Los Angeles Lakers team coming off its best offensive performance of the season.
Since losing a season-worst three in a row, Portland (41-18) has gotten back on track and stands on the verge of its longest win streak since an 11-game run from Nov. 8-25.
While they've continued scoring at a torrid pace, averaging an NBA-high 107.8 points on the season, the Blazers have clamped down during the win streak with 92.4 allowed - 10.5 below their average.
After limiting Denver to 39.8 percent shooting in Saturday's 102-96 home win, they've held opponents below 40.0 percent in four straight for the first time since February 2005.
"Just trying to make their looks tough, not giving them anything easy and trying to rebound down the stretch," Aldridge said after Portland improved to 20-2 when allowing fewer than 100 points.
Aldridge finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in his first game back after missing five because of a left groin injury. The three-time All-Star is averaging team highs of 23.8 points and 11.3 rebounds.
"It felt good," he said. "My timing was a little off but it felt good to be back out there playing with the guys."
Aldridge had 27 points and nine boards in a 114-108 road win over the Lakers on Dec. 1, while Damian Lillard scored 26 with nine assists. Lillard - who had 17 points Saturday - has totaled 64 points, 18 assists and nine 3-pointers in his last two meetings with Los Angeles (20-39).
The Blazers, a season-best 23 games above .500, will likely have to continue their surge without reserve forwards Thomas Robinson (left knee) and Joel Freeland (right knee).
They could have their hands full defensively with the Lakers, who snapped a three-game losing streak with a 126-122 home win over Sacramento on Friday.
Jordan Farmar had a career-high 30 points and hit 8 of 10 from 3-point range as Los Angeles set season highs in both points and shooting percentage (60.0) while also setting a franchise record with 19 3s in 27 attempts.
Newly acquired MarShon Brooks scored 23, and Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks had 22 apiece."When we win it's fun," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "These guys need a little sugar once in a while, and this was sugar. We've been having problems, but they came through and I'm really happy for them."
Xavier Henry posted a career-high 27 points and Meeks had 20 in the December loss to the Blazers. After missing 28 games with a knee injury, Henry is expected to make his return in this matchup.
Although Gasol struggled with just six points on 3-of-15 shooting in the earlier meeting, he finished with 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in a 113-106 win in the most recent matchup at Portland on April 10.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 47 points in that contest but remains out with a knee injury. Nick Young, averaging 16.8 points, will sit for the 10th time in 11 games due to a sore left knee.
The Lakers had won five of six meetings before their Dec. 1 loss.