Photo by Harry How | Getty Images

It’s March 23, 2012 and the (29-18) Los Angeles Lakers are back to work at the Staples Center to start a two-game home stand against the (22-25) Portland Trailblazers. The Lakers put on one of their best performances of the year shooting the lights out in Dallas and dismantling the Mavericks beating them for the third time this season and 13th time out of 16 regular season games.

New Lakers point guard Ramon Sessions asserted himself, on the recent two-game road trip, on display was the immediate impact his style of play brings to this team. The scary thing is that Sessions’ is far from reaching his peak as a Laker. It is safe to say that the journey has just begun. Ramon totaled 17 points 11 assists in his first two games, on the road Sessions’ posted 31 points on 13-of-17 shooting and 13 assists. The previously mentioned numbers will increase now that he is a starter and not just playing starter’s minutes.

The Portland Trailblazers waived Mehmet Okur to make room for J.J. Hickson.

Ironically, tonight’s game brings together three former Cavaliers (Christian Eyenga who is a young player acquired via trade developing with the L.A. Defenders in the D-league) and Cleveland’s two leading scorers last season in Ramon Sessions and J.J. Hickson.

Portland and Los Angeles have split their first two games this season; the Lakers won last year’s season series (3-1). It marked their first season series victory against the Trailblazers since the 2004-2005 season, and just the third since 1989. The Lakers are 5-5 in their last 10 games overall against the Blazers. The Lakers, 18-5 all-time against the Blazers at the Staples Center, winners of eight of their last nine games in Los Angeles.

In the most recent game (a 103-92 win on 2/20/12) the Lakers held the Blazers to just seven 1st quarter points, Portland’s lowest in their 3,633-game history. The total also matched the second lowest first quarter points total allowed by the Lakers since moving to Los Angeles, prior to the 1960-1961 season. Since the last meeting and a 2-5 seven-game road trip, the Blazers fired Nate McMillan who went 266-269 and led the Blazers to three consecutive playoff appearances.

Since interim coach Kaleb Canales has taken over the Blazers are 2-2 playing an up-tempo style of basketball including three-point shots in transition and a healthy dose of the multi-faceted LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 7-17 on the road and currently out of the playoff picture.

In 54 career games against Portland, (including 48 starts) Kobe Bryant is averaging 27.4 points per game. The Lakers need to get off to a fast start, jump on the Blazers early establish a lead on them and play with a sense of urgency focused on continuously increasing said lead. Ramon Sessions has been impressive and the offense has improved as a result. The Lakers re-commitment to the defense is a welcome sight. To be successful the Lakers need to win the points in the paint battle, take care of the ball and limit their turnovers.

The Lakers have to do a good job of defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, control the tempo, get back in transition, limit the impact of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicholas Batum, Jamal Crawford and Wesley Matthews, quickly rotate out to open shooters and receive a strong contribution from their reserves. The Lakers bench scored 31 points on 2/20 a repeat performance is needed.

Starters
Lakers: R. Sessions, K. Bryant, M. Peace, P.Gasol, A. Bynum
Blazers:
R. Felton, W.Matthews, N. Batum, L. Aldridge, J. Przybilla

Tip-off: 7:30 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: FS West (Bill Macdonald & Stu Lantz)
  • Portland: KGW 8 & CSNNW (Mike Barrett & Mike Rice)

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Portland: 750 AM (Brian Wheeler & Antonio Harvey)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Metta World Peace (Left Hip Bursitis) Probable
  • Andrew Bynum (Bruised Right Knee) Probable
  • Darius Morris (Sprained Left Wrist) Day-to-Day

Blazers:

  • Greg Oden (Knee) Out