Since We Saw Them Last: Portland

For the second time in three meetings with L.A., Portland star Brandon Roy will not play due to injury. The Lakers, meanwhile, hope to have the services of forward-center Pau Gasol back as the team looks to gain an advantage in the season series and continue their drive toward first place in the Western Conference.

The Blazers have historically caused all kinds of problems for the Lakers, with their talented group of youngsters defeating L.A. in their last matchup 119-111 behind stellar performances from LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points, 8 rebounds) and Roy (20 points, 12 assists). In that game, three other Portland players reached double figures as the Blazers used a balanced scoring attack to thwart Kobe Bryant’s 33-point effort.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Blazers have lost three of their last four, including defeats at the hands of lowly Seattle and Charlotte. Things aren’t getting easier any time soon for Portland either as they face the Rockets tomorrow night before playing San Antonio, L.A. again, Dallas and Phoenix in the next two weeks.

With Phoenix’s loss last night to Denver, the Lakers have a rare chance to gain ground on the Suns in the previously tied-up Pacific Division. With or without Gasol, L.A. will have to play much better than they have in their previous three contests, particularly on the defensive end where the team has struggled of late in giving up over 100 points per game to 13 of their last 15 opponents.