Injuries haven’t kept the Los Angeles Lakers from competing for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Portland Trail Blazers, meanwhile, just want to finish above .500, but a hobbled Brandon Roy isn’t helping.
The Lakers, who continue to play without their top two centers, look to take advantage of the struggling Trail Blazers when the teams meet in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
“We’re doing this without two starters,” Lakers star guard Kobe Bryant said. “It’s been an adjustment period. I think guys have adjusted well.”
Bynum, who has been sidelined since the middle of January, probably won’t return until the playoffs. But Gasol is getting closer to getting back on the court after scrimmaging briefly Saturday and working out Sunday.
Gasol, who has missed nine straight games, is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s contest.
Los Angeles had lost three of four before beating Washington 126-120 in overtime Sunday night. The Lakers, who have notched 50 victories for the 29th time in franchise history, will try to create some momentum as they face a Blazers team without its top player.
Portland (38-36) has played two straight games without Roy, who injured his groin last Tuesday night early in a 102-82 victory over Washington. Roy is expected to miss at least two more games.
The Blazers have lost both games Roy has missed. Portland, virtually eliminated from playoff contention, needs four victories in its final eight games to secure its first winning record since the 2002-2003 season.
Los Angeles also has eight games remaining, but it will likely take more than four wins over that stretch to earn the No. 1 seed in the West.
“We feel like we are going to have to win 57 or something like that if we want to finish at the top of this heap,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Because of its frontcourt injuries, Los Angeles will need Bryant to come through down the stretch. He scored six of his 26 points in overtime versus the Wizards, and is averaging 31.5 in two games against Portland this season.
Bryant had 33 points against the Blazers on Feb. 29, but the Lakers lost 119-111 after winning the first meeting of the season 96-83 three days earlier.
With Bynum and Gasol hobbled, Los Angeles could have trouble handling Portland center Joel Przybilla, who is averaging 11.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in his last 18 games.
Przybilla had 18 rebounds in the Blazers’ 93-85 loss to Charlotte on Saturday night, marking the third time in five games he has grabbed 17 boards or more. He insists Portland isn’t giving up.
“I don’t believe it. I’m out there playing hard and all of my teammates are playing hard,” he said. “I’ve been around teams that have hung it up, and this team definitely is not doing that.”
The Lakers and Blazers will conclude their season series at Portland next Tuesday.