Trail Blazers-Lakers Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was unhappy about more than just his team's poor performance in its most recent game.
Given the recent dominance at home against Portland, a visit from the Trail Blazers on Monday night might help Bryant put aside his conflict with management and help the Lakers bounce back from that disappointing effort.
Los Angeles (18-13) trailed by 27 points in the third quarter before attempting to rally in a 102-90 defeat in Phoenix on Sunday. The loss wasn't the only thing that rankled Bryant, who scored 32 points but also committed an NBA season-high 10 turnovers.
He also expressed his dissatisfaction with the Lakers' treatment of Pau Gasol. The forward's name has been in trade rumors for much of this season, and Bryant is seeking closure for his teammate, who is averaging a career-low 16.6 points.
"I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him," Bryant said. "It's tough for a player to give his all when you don't know if you're going to be here tomorrow. I'd rather them not trade him at all. If they're going to do something, I wish they would just ... do it. If they're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it."
With no clear plans on Gasol's future, the Lakers will try to bounce back by adding to its mastery of Portland (17-15) at Staples Center. Los Angeles has won 16 of the past 19 matchups there.
The Lakers, though, have also suffered consecutive defeats in the series, including a 107-96 road loss Jan. 5. Gerald Wallace scored a season-high 31 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 28 for Portland in that victory.
Bryant, meanwhile, finished with 30 points while still dealing with a torn ligament in his right wrist.
That win clinched a 5-1 start for the Blazers, but they're 12-14 since that game. They're also 5-10 on the road, but are coming off one of their most lopsided wins this season, 97-77 over visiting Atlanta on Saturday.
Nicolas Batum continued his strong play as a starter with 22 points, and Raymond Felton had 14 points after failing to score during a 74-71 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. Aldridge scored 19 after missing the previous two games with a sprained left ankle.
Over his previous 12 games, Felton had averaged 8.3 points while making just 32.8 percent of his attempts but credited his work with a shooting coach for Thursday's performance.
"It felt good, and I think everybody else was happy with it as well," Felton said.
Batum, meanwhile, has averaged 22.8 points on 52.9 percent shooting over his four consecutive starts. He had a team-best 25 points in Portland's previous road game against the Lakers, an 84-80 loss March 20.
Bryant had 10 of his team-leading 22 points during the fourth quarter of that win and enters this game having topped 30 points in consecutive contests. He's averaged 28.3 points in his last four games against the Blazers, but was held to 17.0 on 38.7 percent shooting during the two matchups at Staples Center last season.
Wallace, who has a combined 16 points in the past two games, has averaged 9.3 in nine all-time road games against the Lakers.
Aldridge's 13.0-point average at Staples last season was his second-worst in an opposing building. He averaged 12.5 points in two games at San Antonio's AT&T Center.
Updated February 20, 2012