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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, March 20th (All times eastern)

Portland Trail Blazers (40-29) at Los Angeles Lakers (49-20), 9:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are closing in on their fourth straight Pacific Division title and will resume a lengthy seven-game homestand tonight versus the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Lakers have won three in a row and 11 of their last 12 games, including Friday's 106-98 victory over Minnesota at Staples Center. Pau Gasol scored 25 points, Kobe Bryant shook off ankle and neck issues for 18 points and Andrew Bynum had 10 points and 14 rebounds before getting ejected late in the game for a flagrant-2 foul.

Bynum made contact with Minnesota forward Michael Beasley in the fourth quarter and sent him to the hardwood with what appeared to be an elbow to the chest. Beasley made the two free throws but did not return with a hip injury.

"[Bynum] was going to go block the shot, but he was too late ... He just gave up on the ball. He didn't do it in a way that was malicious. He just stopped Beasley's penetration, but Beasley fell hard," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said of the controversial foul.

Los Angeles was unable to wrap up the Pacific Division title because Phoenix beat Golden State. It will also host the Suns, Clippers, Hornets and Mavericks and is 24-8 at home this season. The Lakers have won five in a row in Hollywood and are aiming for their fourth straight 50-win season.

LA is currently second in the Western Conference standings -- just one game ahead of Dallas. Bryant is listed as probable for tonight's game and is averaging 24.7 ppg.

Portland, meanwhile, completed a perfect three-game homestand with Saturday's 110-101 win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers at the Rose Garden.

Wesley Matthews had 28 points and Gerald Wallace added 25 points and eight assists for the Trail Blazers, who have won seven of nine and are sixth in the conference standings.

"We're trying to get better with that," LaMarcus Aldridge said of overcoming slow starts. "Guys have more energy, getting up and down, coming out stronger."

Aldridge had 18 points and seven boards while Nicolas Batum ended with 16 points for the Trail Blazers. Portland is 16-19 away from Rip City in 2010-11.

Los Angeles has beaten Portland twice already this season and is 15-3 in the previous 18 meetings at Staples Center.

03/20 11:16:38 ET


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