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Trail Blazers-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

All seems to be right with the Portland Trail Blazers since LaMarcus Aldridge returned, though they're hoping he doesn't have to miss more time after taking a shot to his sore back.

He's currently expected to suit up Tuesday night as the Blazers look to continue their pursuit of home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers.

Since dropping three straight at the end of a seven-game stretch without Aldridge due to a back contusion, Portland (48-27) has won three in a row - their longest streak since a five-game run Feb. 21-March 1.

Aldridge bounced back after scoring a season-low five points on 2-of-10 shooting in a 91-74 win at Chicago on Friday, scoring 28 as the Blazers shot 52.0 percent in a 105-98 home win over Memphis on Sunday.

''LA coming back has brought us back to what we do and how we do it,'' said reserve guard Mo Williams, who had 17 points.

Portland, however, experienced a major scare late in the fourth quarter against the Grizzlies when Aldridge fell on his backside. Though he remained in the game and played a post injury-high 33 minutes, the team will be keeping an eye on the situation.

"I'm a little sore," Aldridge told the team's official website. "It definitely woke up my little contusion, but I'm OK."

The Blazers opened a two-game lead over Golden State for fifth place in the West and pulled within 2 1/2 games of fourth-place Houston.

They'll take on a Los Angeles team that has given playoff contenders some trouble at home of late, beating New York and Phoenix by double digits in its last two at Staples Center.

''We're trying to be the player-haters of the year," guard Kendall Marshall said. "That's definitely what we're trying to do, and we embrace it.We want to keep teams out of the playoffs and mess up seedings."

The Lakers (25-48) halted Portland's five-game winning streak with a 107-106 road victory March 3. Pau Gasol led the way with 22 points and Kent Bazemore threw an alley-oop to Wesley Johnson for the go-ahead dunk with 6.9 seconds left.

Even though frontcourt starters Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum combined for 57 points and 37 rebounds, Los Angeles outscored the Blazers 58-40 in the paint in that contest.

Portland, though, has held a 105-85 rebounding edge in the two meetings and the Lakers could be without leading rebounder Gasol due to a bout with vertigo that has cost him the past four games. He's been on an injured list that includes Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry and Jordan Farmar.

In the first matchup at Staples on Dec. 1, Aldridge scored 27 points and Damian Lillard added 26 in a 114-108 victory that was only Portland's fourth win in 28 road meetings, including playoffs.

The Blazers, though, have tightened up defensively of late, allowing 85.7 points and 21.4 percent shooting from 3-point range during their win streak.

The short-handed Lakers are looking for a season-high fourth consecutive win at home. They've scored 112.5 per game and shot 42.0 percent from beyond the arc in the last six there.

Chris Kaman filled in nicely for Gasol in Sunday's 115-99 win over the Suns, finishing with 28 points and 17 rebounds. Jodie Meeks, who scored 22, has totaled 41 points in the two matchups with the Blazers.

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