Trail Blazers-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

Last season, Ramon Sessions and J.J. Hickson were the Cleveland Cavaliers' leading scorers. Now they are both being forced to adjust to new teams.

Sessions asserted himself over a two-game road trip for the Los Angeles Lakers this week, and they return home Friday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers, who could see Hickson make his team debut.

It was a tough blow for the Lakers' locker room last Thursday when veteran Derek Fisher was traded to Houston. Sessions was acquired from Cleveland that same day along with forward Christian Eyenga.

While Sessions totaled 17 points and 11 assists in his first two games for the Lakers at home, those numbers were up to 31 points on 13-of-17 shooting and 13 assists as Los Angeles (29-18) split two games in Houston and Dallas.

Sessions had 17 points and nine assists in Wednesday's 109-93 win over the Mavericks. The point guard could soon crack the starting lineup, since that point total matched the best in 2011-12 by current starter Steve Blake and the assist total surpassed Blake's highest in a single game this season.

"The kid Sessions made the game easy for everybody," coach Mike Brown said. "He had a very good all-around game. You can see how his speed can help us, his ability to ... turn the corner and get into the teeth of the defense."

Kobe Bryant shot a season-high 61.1 percent (11 of 18) for 30 points Wednesday while Pau Gasol went 13 for 16 from the field for 27 points.

"He definitely is a point guard that creates a lot of pick-and-rolls, and gets us points in transition, too," Gasol said of Sessions. "He gets in the lane, and he can knock down the shot himself."

Hickson was in uniform but did not play in Thursday's 97-93 home win over Memphis. A former first-round pick by the Cavaliers, he was waived by Sacramento on Tuesday and claimed by Portland (22-25) the next day.

The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 4.7 points this season after leading Cleveland with 13.8 a season ago.

"We like J.J.'s energy and physicality," acting general manager Chad Buchanan said. "He's a young, but experienced player who can help our front line."

Portland is hoping Hickson can help LaMarcus Aldridge in its frontcourt. Aldridge has averaged 23.0 points and 9.0 boards while the Trail Blazers have split two meetings with the Lakers this season.

The Lakers will get their first look at Portland's new lineup after Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace - starters in the first two matchups - were let go in separate deals last Thursday. Joel Przybilla and Wesley Matthews have started all four games under interim coach Kaleb Canales.

The Blazers are in 12th place in the Western Conference, 3 1/2 games behind Houston for the last postseason spot.

"We're still in this," Matthews said. "We fully believe we will make the playoffs."

Bryant is averaging 29.0 points in the season series while Andrew Bynum is averaging 17.5 points and 15.5 boards.

Los Angeles had its 10-game home win streak snapped Sunday in a 103-99 loss to Utah. The Lakers fell to 13-1 against West foes at home.

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