It appears to be the biggest mismatch on paper among the NBA's 11 games on Tuesday when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Portland Trail Blazers for a 10 p.m. ET tipoff. The Blazers are 12.5-point favorites on 5Dimes NBA odds with a total of 209.5.
Lakers Down 2 Starters
It's the second of a back-to-back for the Lakers. They improved to 11-23 with Sunday's 88-87 home win over Indiana. With how old Kobe Bryant is these days you never know when we will see the last of something he does. For example, he hit the game-winning shot with 12.4 seconds left against the Pacers. Will that be the last one of his NBA career? Probably not since he plans on playing next year but you never know.
Kobe finished with 20 points -- nine in the final 2:23 after the Lakers rallied from a 13-point hole. Bryant was leading the NBA in scoring for a little while there but his 36-year-old body has slowed down a bit and he's now fifth at 23.6 points per game. Coach Byron Scott wants to keep Bryant fresh and will rest him at times. That will be the cast on Monday as Kobe didn't even travel with the team to Portland. That's 21.1 average shots per game now available to the other guys. The last time Bryant sat out was Dec. 26 at Dallas and the Lakers only lost by four. The rest has seemed to help him. In the Lakers' first 27 games, Bryant attempted a league-leading 22.4 shots a game but shot only 37.2 percent from the field. In the previous three games before Sunday, he was averaging 11.7 shots and hitting 45.7 percent of them.
Also out Monday is starting forward Wesley Johnson. He strained his right hip flexor in the second quarter and didn't return. Johnson, who has started every game, also didn't make the trip. He's averaging 9.7 points per game. An MRI on Monday will deal if it's a major injury.
The Lakers are 16-15-3 against the NBA betting spread and 18-16 'over/under.'
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Portland Loses Another Center
Portland (26-8) had a four-game winning streak snapped Saturday at home by the Atlanta Hawks, 115-107. Even more impressive for the red-hot Hawks considering they were playing the second of a back-to-back. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 30 points and 12 rebounds as Portland's seven-game home winning streak ended. It was Aldridge's fourth game this season with at least 30 points and 10 boards, tied for second-most in the NBA.
The Blazers have been without starting center Robin Lopez since mid-December due to a broken hand and he won't return until likely February. The team's frontcourt depth took another hit Sunday when Lopez's starting replacement, Joel Freeland, hurt his right shoulder in the fourth quarter and had to leave. An MRI revealed a strain, but he's going to miss at least a few weeks. Freeland was averaging 5.2 points and 7.2 rebounds over the past 10 games. Presumably that means former Laker Chris Kaman will move into the starting lineup with youngster Meyers Leonard also seeing an uptick in minutes. Or the team could opt to start Leonard. He averages 3.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in about 10 minutes per night. The Blazers lead the NBA in rebounding but it's hard to see that continuing minus Lopez and Freeland. It's conceivable the team could look to acquire a big man via trade to hold down the fort.
The Blazers are 20-13-1 against the spread this season and 15-19 'over/under' on NBA betting odds.
This is the first meeting between these teams this season, but the Blazers were 2-1 against the Lakers in 2013-14. Aldridge and Damian Lillard combined to score 53 points per game against Los Angeles last year while shooting 48 percent from the field. Their combined high was 65 points in Portland’s 124-112 win over the Lakers on April 1 in the most recent meeting. Nick Young led the Lakers in scoring against the Blazers at 28.5 points in two games. Kobe didn't face Portland once. Portland has won 25 of the past 33 regular-season games matchups with L.A.
NBA Free Picks: We are offering up two NBA picks for tonight's matchup: Portland -12.5 and Under 209.5 points. Without Kobe, who can score in the Lakers? Sorry, but I don't have much faith in Young. The 'under' is 7-3 in L.A.'s past 10 road games. Portland has covered four straight against teams with a losing record.