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Sunday, April 11, 2010
Lakers vs. Blazers: What to watch for

By Brian Kamenetzky

"Clarity" would certainly be the wrong word to describe the Western Conference playoff ladder, but things do seem to be clearing up, at least a little. Looking at the standings through Saturday, there is at least the potential for separation among the bottom three teams, based on what happens Sunday when the Lakers and Blazers tussle at Staples (12:30 pm PT, ABC).
Andy and Brian break down Sunday's game and a potential first-round matchup with the Blazers with Andrew Tonry, host of the TrueHoop Network's Portland Roundball Society.
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Oklahoma City has 30 losses, San Antonio and Portland 31 each. Obviously the Lakers can push Brandon Roy and Co. to 32 with a win this afternoon, which wouldn't guarantee they'd face the Blazers in the first round but would make it far more likely. (Should the Lakers lose, I'm going back to my original plan: Look at the Web Thursday morning and see who landed in the eight spot.)

How the Lakers handle today's game could provide insight toward their preferred playoff opponent, or at the very least if they fear a series sending them into the Rose Garden up to three games. Saturday in El Segundo, Phil Jackson indicated Kobe Bryant will play, and theLakers will bring a full effortdespite having wrapped up the W.C.'s top seed. (Rest will likely be doled out this week against Sacramento and the Clippers.) The result should be a playoff atmosphere, and a fun game to watch.

The Blazers, 17-7 (.708) since the All-Star break and winners of 11 of 14, are a dangerous team for a variety of reasons:
For more, ESPNLA's Arash Markazi sat down with former Hornets assistant Dave Miller Wednesday night when the Blazers beat the Clippers, and together they assembled this scouting report. It's a comprehensive breakdown, well worth a read.