The Portland Trail Blazers may have already secured the Northwest Division title by the time they tip off against the last-place Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
However, they’d still have plenty to play for with home-court advantage on the line.
The Trail Blazers go for their first-ever four-game winning streak in Los Angeles and first season sweep of the Lakers in 21 years.
Portland (48-26) has earned a second consecutive postseason berth and is 6 1/2 games ahead of Oklahoma City for the division lead. The Blazers’ magic number is one, and they can lock up the top spot if the Thunder lose at Memphis in a game that begins 2 1/2 hours before this one.
Portland can also clinch with a fifth consecutive victory over the Lakers (20-54). The Blazers haven’t won the division since finishing tied with Denver in 2008-09, and their last outright title came in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season, when they advanced to the Western Conference finals.
Portland dropped six straight and 11 of 12 at Los Angeles before this run, winning 106-94 on Jan. 11 behind 34 points from Damian Lillard. The All-Star guard is averaging 29.4 points over a seven-game stretch in the series.
The Blazers had a four-game win steak snapped with a 126-122 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday in a possible playoff preview. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 29 points and Nicolas Batum added 21 for Portland, which blew a 19-point lead after surrendering a season-worst 41 points in the fourth quarter.
"Look, you hate losing games," coach Terry Stotts said. "You hate losing at home and you hate losing to a team that you might see in the playoffs. There’s a lot of things not to be happy about tonight."
The loss was all the more disappointing as the Blazers fell one game behind the Clippers for home-court advantage should the teams meet in the first round.
"The playoffs started for everybody in the West, it’s going to be like this (down the stretch)," Batum said.
Portland could catch a break against a Lakers team that’s dropped 13 of 17. Los Angeles’ woes continued in Wednesday’s 113-92 defeat to New Orleans, moving it to within one loss of matching the franchise record set last season.
"We need to be much better, " guard Jeremy Lin said after watching the Pelicans shoot 56.4 percent. "We have to do much better in terms of all the little things, we just kind of got away from it. … We just have to keep doing what we’re supposed to do."
Rookie Jordan Clarkson delivered another strong performance with 18 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists. The second-round pick is averaging 21.0 points on 54.0 percent shooting over the last six games.
The Lakers have dropped nine straight and 19 of 21 home games against fellow West opponents.
The Blazers, losers in 13 of 19 on the road, are looking for a third consecutive victory away from home for the first time since Dec. 13-20.