The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t played in Portland in nearly nine months. The defending champions would likely try to avoid the Rose Garden altogether considering their recent struggles there.
Los Angeles will try to snap an eight-game slide in Portland on Friday night when the Trail Blazers look for an improved defensive effort.
The Western Conference-leading Lakers (28-7) make their first visit to the Rose Garden since a 106-98 loss on April 10.
The Trail Blazers’ home winning streak against the Lakers is their longest current streak at home against one team. Los Angeles’ skid in Portland is its longest active road losing streak versus one opponent.
“Outside of the fact that (the Trail Blazers are) a good basketball team, we’ve had some slippage in execution,” Lakers guard Derek Fisher(notes) said following Thursday’s practice. “If I recall correctly, we’ve gotten off to some poor starts (in Portland). We’ll do ourselves a lot of good by getting off to a good start tomorrow night.”
The Lakers, though, will be trying to do that without Pau Gasol(notes), who will miss his third straight game with a left hamstring injury. Coach Phil Jackson said Thursday that he doesn’t expect Gasol back until Sunday at the earliest.
Without Gasol in the lineup the last two games, the Lakers - among the league leaders with 104.0 points per game - are averaging 89.5. They shot 38.4 percent from the field in Wednesday’s 102-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“With that type of lineup, without Pau in there, we’ve got to find some other guys going, and they’re not clicking right away,” Jackson said.
While the Lakers will try to avoid their first three-game road losing streak since Feb. 27-March 9, the Trail Blazers (22-15) are looking to bounce back from a pair of poor defensive performances.
After holding teams to an average of 94.0 points during a 6-1 run from Dec. 20-Jan. 2, Portland is giving up 107.0 points on 51.6 percent shooting in its last two games - both losses.
The injury-ravaged Trail Blazers are without centers Greg Oden(notes) and Joel Przybilla(notes) for the rest of the season with knee injuries, but coach Nate McMillan expects an improved defensive effort from his team.
“That’s a killer, 54 points in the paint, 27 second-chance points, I mean we just got pounded - really the last two nights - in the paint,” McMillan told the team’s official Web site following Tuesday’s 109-105 loss to Memphis.
“I don’t buy that at all,” Jackson said of the Trail Blazers being more vulnerable due to their slew of injuries. “They’re going to have an defensive plan. They have two exceptional offensive players in (Andre) Miller and (Brandon) Roy. They can still find the offense to generate points.”
Miller is averaging 20.3 points, 8.7 assists and 6.0 rebounds in his last three games.
Roy scored 25.5 points per game with 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds in two home wins over the Lakers last season.
Bryant, the league’s second-leading scorer at 30.0 points per game, is averaging 34.1 in his last 12 games in Portland.
Bryant scored 31 in the Lakers’ last victory at the Rose Garden - 86-83 on Feb. 23, 2005.