By Jonathan Ryan Davis
1) Lakers: That's really all you need to say when it comes to the Lakers visiting the Rose City. Our storied history with this bunch is more colorful than Joseph's technicolored dream coat. Some Blazers fans would call the season a success if we sweep the Lakers, even if we miss the playoffs. However, tonight's game has special significance: this is the first time in years where we come into the game as a higher seed in the western conference. More than any match-up with LA in the last decade, Portland needs to defend their home court tonight to show the league that Portland wasn't a first week fluke. The Blazers need to bring the same flare that enabled them to beat a very good Thunder team in OKC; but they already know that. It's the Lakers. Everyone gets up for the Lakers.
2) LMA: LaMarcus Aldridge was the player Tuesday night that the Blazers need him to be if Portland is to be a legitimate contender out West. He provided a great balance of inside dominance and outside pureness. He attacked the rim and generated space for his jumper. He controlled his man on defense and clogged the paint. He was the difference in that game. The Lakers bring a potent front court to the Rose Garden tonight with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Odds are, LMA will end up guarding both of these players on occasion, and he needs to bring the same anger he showed when battling with Kendrick Perkins in OKC.
3) Lights: This is the first game where Portland will be under the national spotlight. If they win, the national media will report Portland as a feel good story who has a real chance to compete for a championship. If they lose, Portland will be a good team that made a good run, but is not yet great. Tonight is the night for Portland to make a statement. Not for the national media. Not for the fans in Portland. For themselves. These Blazers deserve some respect (though not getting it sure seems to fire them up).