It's two struggling teams in Portland on Thursday night in a TNT national TV game as the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Trail Blazers. There is good news for the home side as All-Star guard Damian Lillard will be in the lineup.
Lillard has missed five games since spraining his ankle in a game against San Antonio on Dec. 23. Lillard was leaping to grab a rebound and landed on the foot of Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon, rolling his ankle outward. The Blazers have gone 2-3 without Lillard. He is averaging 27 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists this season.
While Lillard is a star, some have speculated the Blazers should trade him for an All-Star big man because backcourt mate C.J. McCollum has played so well with Lillard out and moving to point guard. In the past five games, McCollum is averaging 31.2 points, 4.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds.
The lack of a defensive presence inside has seen Portland plummet in defensive efficiency this season. The Trail Blazers currently rank 29th in the NBA by allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions. Other than Mason Plumlee, the Blazers have nothing in the frontcourt. So they need help.
The Lakers-Blazers line opened at Portland -3.5 on NBA odds but it's up to -7 as of this writing. The Trail Blazers have won eight straight games against the Lakers, matching their longest winning streak ever in the series. Portland has won six straight over Los Angeles by 10 or more points, its largest such streak against the Lakers in franchise history.
Lillard averaged 31.7 points on 55.6 percent shooting in three games against the Lakers last season. That was his second-highest scoring average against any Western Conference opponent in 2015-16. McCollum averaged 25.0 points on 59.3 percent shooting vs. L.A. last year.
The Lakers are 5-3 in nationally televised games this season. Los Angeles is 6-1 overall when holding the opposition under 100 points in 2016-17. The favorite is 6-0 ATS on NBA picks in the past six meetings between the two.