The Los Angeles Lakers (15-26) will attempt to win their third straight game when they host the Portland Trail Blazers (16-23) at the Staples Center Tuesday in a game with long-term playoff implications.
The Blazers, with a .410 record, are barely clinging to the No. 8 seed in the western conference as the Sacramento Kings, the New Orleans Pelicans, Denver Nuggets and Lakers are all within two games behind. A loss to Luke Waton's young Lakers squad could prove costly for the Blazers, who have lost seven of their last 10 games and continue to concede the second-most points per game in the league (111.5). The Lakers, too, are a poor defensive unit, giving up 109.8 points per game, which ranks 26th in the league.
Since both teams prefer to run-and-gun, a high scoring affair is expected in Los Angeles, especially with the home team fresh off a 111-95 blowout victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday. The win also marked LA's first three-game winning streak since the Nov. 2-6 stretch when they beat the Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers: Brandon Ingram begins to blossom
Rookie Brandon Ingram, the lanky forward from Duke, was slow to get off the blocks but has turned it up since the final week of December. He has scored a career-best 17 points in back-to-back wins against the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic on Friday and Sunday respectively. More importantly, Ingram's jump shots, which were nearly non-existent through the first few months of the season, have begun to fall.
Julius Randle, who is beginning to assume a leadership role with the young team, is pleased with the progress of the rookie. "He (Ingram) is doing everything out there. Defending, making shots, blocking shots, playing a little bit of point (forward/guard) and is being very versatile out there and he is helping us out a lot," the third-year forward from Kentucky said after Sunday's win, via ESPN.
Meanwhile, coach Walton showered praise on second-year point guard D'Angelo Russell, who is averaging 20.8 points, 5 assists and 5.2 rebounds since the start of 2017. "I think we all knew they had the talent to be really good, but I think the fact that they really stepped up their professionalism as far as the way they're treating their bodies and approaching practice and every opportunity. It's just a direct result of that."
After hosting the Blazers, the Lakers begin a two-game road trip which begins with Thursday's game against the San Antonio Spurs. Portland returns home to host the Cleveland Cavaliers, the reigning NBA champions.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers live stream: How to watch
Start time: 10:30 PM (ET), 7:30 PM (PT), 1:30 PM on Wednesday (AEST), 2:30 PM (AEDT)
On TV: Time Warner Sports Net, Comcast Sports Net Northwest (USA)
Live Stream: NBA League Pass (Global)