Trail Blazers Look For 14th Consecutive Victory Versus Lakers Saturday Night In L.A.

by Casey Holdahl
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Before getting an extended Christmas break, the Portland Trail Blazers (16-16) have one last piece of business left to attend to: facing the Los Angeles Lakers in the second game of a back-to-back Saturday night at Staples Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Saturday’s game is the second of three scheduled meetings between the two team with the Trail Blazers winning the first contest 113-100 back on November 2 at the Moda Center. Damian Lillard, who led all scorers with 32 points in the first meeting, made a three-pointer with 0.7 seconds to play to secure what was Portland’s fifth win of the season and their 13th consecutive victory versus the Lakers.

But the Trail Blazers won’t have the luxury of Lillard Saturday night in Los Angeles, as the 6-3 point guard will sit out his second-straight game due to a right hamstring strain suffered in Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs at the Moda Center.

“I think having that break after (Saturday), when we don’t play until the 28th is going to be good,” said Lillard of his status versus the Lakers. “So obviously not playing (Friday), sit out (Saturday), just use the rest of that time to get treatment and get some workouts in and get right.”

Unfortunately, not much went right for the Trail Blazers in their first game without Lillard this season, a 102-85 loss to the Denver Nuggets Friday night at the Moda Center. Between scoring 26 of their first 28 points in the paint, out-scoring Portland's 80-35 and winning the rebounding battle by 15, Denver easily handed the Trail Blazers their sixth consecutive loss at the Moda Center, just two losses short of their franchise worst streak at home.

“We didn’t play a very good game," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Obviously they won every quarter, they rebounded the ball well. I thought our bench guys did a good job for a while in the first half, got us back in the game. We just didn’t do very many things well enough to come close to winning the game tonight."

As for the Lakers, they also enter Saturday night's game having lost Friday night, though theirs came by way of a 113-106 loss to the Warriors at Oracle Arena. Rookie Lonzo Ball, the second overall pick of the 2017 Draft, had one of the best shooting nights of his young career in the lose, going 9-of-16 from the field and 5-of-6 from three for 24 points to go with five rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes.

But for as good as Ball was, fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma, taken with the 27th overall pick, was even better, finishing with 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 shooting from three, 14 rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist in 43 minutes.

Saturday night's game can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest with Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam. Brian Wheeler will have the call on Rip City Radio 620 AM and on all of the stations of the Trail Blazers Radio Network.