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Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Preview

The Blazers take their six-game win streak into Staples Center.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (37-26) at Los Angeles Lakers (28-34)

Monday, March 5th - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Moe Harkless (questionable)
Lakers injuries: Brandon Ingram (questionable), Josh Hart (out), Channing Frye (probable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBATV
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Silver Screen and Roll

Two days after winning their sixth straight game by dropping the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trail Blazers take on another streaking team in the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have won five straight contests, including a win over the Spurs on Saturday, and are 17-7 dating back to Jan. 7.

While they don’t pose a threat to make the playoffs, the Lakers have figured out how to win as of late. Lonzo Ball is shooting much better since his return from injury and, with Isaiah Thomas added to the team, they now feature four players that average 15 or more points per game: Thomas, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle.

What to watch for

Is Brandon Ingram going to play? And if he is, will he be effective? While Ingram has shown significant progress this season, he was held out against the Spurs with a hip flexor strain. While it doesn’t appear to be serious, this type of injury can affect a player’s explosiveness and sense of balance. Should he not be able to go or contribute heavily, look for Kuzma and Randle to get more looks.

Which Lonzo Ball will show up? While much has been made about Lonzo Ball’s terrible shooting in his rookie season, he’s shot considerably better upon his return from injury. In the last four games, Ball is shooting 55 percent from the field and nearly 64 percent from the 3-point line. Clearly those aren’t sustainable numbers, but Ball is in an unbelievable groove right now.

Can Portland’s bench contain IT? Isaiah Thomas, acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers at the trade deadline, has taken to his role of “volume-shooting sixth man” quite nicely. As a Laker, Thomas is averaging 16 points a night in only 24 minutes. Thomas has got the green light to put it up whenever he wants to, and Shabazz Napier, Damian Lillard, and possibly Evan Turner will have their hands full with IT Monday night.

What they’re saying

Jack Maloney of CBS Sports discusses Lonzo Ball’s recent hot 3-point shooting streak:

And speaking of surprises, it might be time to start paying attention to Lonzo Ball’s 3-point shot. Historically bad at the start of his rookie season -- he shot 24 percent from downtown in November -- Ball has turned things around since returning from a knee injury that kept him out for a month.

Against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night, Ball went 6 of 10 from downtown, setting a new career-high for 3-pointers in a game. More impressive, however, was that he made three of those triples in the final three minutes, including two go-ahead 3-pointers in the final 80 seconds.

And on a related note, he’s recently been getting far more open looks. Over the past four games, 75 of his field goal attempts have been 3-pointers that classifies as either “open” or “wide-open.” He’s making 62.5 percent of the “open” attempts, and 61.5 percent of the “wide-open” attempts.

Before his injury, only 48.6 percent of his field goal attempts were “open” or “wide-open,” and he was making less than 32 percent in each category.

Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN discusses how the Lakers have been winning games of late:

“I think we can say we’ve gotten better,” Ingram said of the Lakers from a season ago. “We’ve gotten better over these last months as a team, coming into every single game thinking defense first.

”I mean, the camaraderie we had this year from last year is a lot better. I think guys came in and we worked extra hard, whether it was individually, whether it was as a team, we just thought we could figure it out sooner or later. And we came in every single day and worked at our game and then we started to figure it out.”

The Lakers continue to look like a bunch of young powerful mutants who are just starting to figure out their powers and limits in a Marvel movie. Start with Ingram, who is flourishing while starting at point guard. The second-year player continues to show off his versatility, joining Bryant, Gasol and O’Neal as the only Lakers to post 21 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in a game.

Ingram looked every bit like the best player on the floor on Monday, and that was with nine Lakers scoring in double-figures -- something that hasn’t happened since Jan. 7, 1987

Joey Ramirez from breaks down how the Lakers shot their highest clip in four years against Miami last week:

The Lakers play at the fastest pace in the NBA, and the Heat at the third-slowest. With such a contrast in styles, whoever controlled the speed of the game was going to have a huge advantage.

L.A. got what it wanted in this regard, outscoring Miami on fast-breaks, 22-10. Even more impressively, they came away fruitless on just one such attempt, shooting a near-perfect 10-of-11 on the break.

Randle’s physicality was too much for yet another team to handle, as he hit seven shots in the paint and drew nine free throw attempts (making all of them), including three on and-1 buckets.

Like all of last month, Randle was the Lakers’ go-to option to begin the game, scoring 21 points in the first half alone, including 11 in the opening quarter. In February, the big man ranked fourth among all players in first-quarter scoring average (8.4).