BLAZERS AT LAKERS
7:30 p.m. Monday at Staples Center (TNT)
Key match-up: Nicolas Batum vs. Kobe Bryant
We may not see these two guarding each other throughout the game, but do expect to see Batum spending some time trying to defend the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer. But don’t expect the Frenchman to focus solely on defense. Batum has averaged 22.7 in four games since being re-inserted into the starting lineup. Nate McMillan hasn’t quite dubbed him the “No. 2 guy” (next to LaMarcus Aldridge) yet, but he has been impressed by his consistency. Even so, anytime you’re dealing with Bryant in his own house, the Blazers will have their work cut out for him.
To win: Not to quote McMillan here, but “make shots.” The inside-out game between Batum and Aldridge had serious potential, but the Blazers need to make sure they establish themselves on the perimeter first.
Raymond Felton had one of his best games in a Blazers jersey Saturday night against the Hawks, and while that effort can’t expected to be duplicated, a similar performance might be necessary for the Blazers to come out on top.
And don’t forget about Gerald Wallace, the forward who went for 31 points against the Lakers when they last came to the Rose Garden.
SPURS AT BLAZERS
7 p.m. Tuesday at the Rose Garden (CSN cable Channel 37)
Key match-up: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Tim Duncan
Duncan may not be what he used to be, the future Hall of Famer’s “low” numbers might be him playing possum this time. Plus, the Spurs have won 10 consecutive games, which means things are running on all cylinders. But Aldridge is trying to move into the territory Duncan once owned — which is “league’s best power forward,” and seeing as how he did not look perturbed by his ankle the last time he took the court, he looks as strong as ever averaging 22.5 points per game.
To win: No slip-ups in the second half this time for Portland. The Blazers always have an advantage playing in their home arena, but the Spurs are looking like the team that started 40-7 last year. Remember, the first time the Spurs came to Portland last year, Batum hit the game winning shot off the alley-oop from Andre Miller. The next time, Aldridge went off for a career-high 40 points. Certainly the Blazers have the capability of knocking off a team like San Antonio, but to do so, they need to mimic the game they had against the Hawks and play a solid four quarters.
Friday-Monday, Feb. 24-27
All-Star Game, Sunday, Feb. 26 at Orlando