Scoreboard Watching

Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant says a Pacific Division title isn't all that important - but he's still keeping an eye on the scoreboard.

Bryant and the Lakers will try to move closer to a division championship on Tuesday when they visit the struggling Portland Trail Blazers.

Los Angeles (53-24) sits atop the Pacific, two games ahead of second-place Phoenix. The Lakers and Suns each have five games remaining in the regular season.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Los Angeles –8.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 202 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 87% of bets for this game have been placed on Los Angeles –8.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The Lakers have 18 division titles, but none since 2004, Shaquille O'Neal's last season with the club. Los Angeles is also tied with San Antonio for second place in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind New Orleans.

"I'll watch a little bit, mostly out of curiosity," Bryant said of the extent of his scoreboard-watching. "We want to be No. 1 just for the sake of being No. 1, but it ultimately doesn't matter because wherever you finish in the West, you're going to have a tough matchup."

Bryant scored 29 points on Sunday, helping the Lakers to their fourth straight victory, 114-92 in Sacramento. Luke Walton missed the game with a strained right hamstring, but Vladimir Radmanovic picked up his minutes and matched a season high with 21 points to go along with 14 rebounds.

Walton hopes to be ready to play against the Blazers.

"I thought it was something that was just going to get better," Walton said. "But the longer it went, the worse it got."

Despite Walton's problems, the Lakers are getting healthier. Pau Gasol was in the starting lineup for the third straight game after missing nine with a sprained left ankle and had 20 points, while Derek Fisher played 27 minutes despite a partially torn tendon in his right foot.

That's good news for Los Angeles, which has dropped five straight in Portland since an 86-83 win on Feb. 23, 2005. The Lakers have won three of four overall against the Trail Blazers (38-39), who have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Portland has dropped five straight, including Sunday's 72-65 defeat against the Spurs. All-Star guard Brandon Roy returned after missing four games with a groin injury and led the Blazers, who set a season low in scoring, with 18 points.

The Blazers fell under .500 for the first time since Dec. 14, when they were in the middle of a 13-game winning streak.

"Of course winning is the goal to finish out the season. We want to win every game," said LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds. "We wanted to win tonight but the ball didn't bounce our way."

Center Joel Przybilla, who had been averaging 11.4 rebounds since the All-Star break, hit the rim trying to block a shot in the second quarter and will miss the final five games of the season with a broken right hand. Martell Webster missed the game after he was taken to the hospital on Thursday with dizziness and flu-like symptoms.

"There's five games left and we're going to do our best to finish strong," Roy said.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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