PORTLAND, Ore. — Here are three things to watch as the Lakers begin their final regular-season push with a game tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers. With 20 games remaining, these are three themes that bear monitoring:
First, shooting for the league’s best overall record and securing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Lakers went into tonight’s game atop the overall standings with a 50-12 mark, ahead of Cleveland (49-13), Boston (49-15) and Orlando (46-16).
Second, strong and consistent play from the backups. The Bench Mob won’t be asked to carry the Lakers down the stretch. They will be asked to play a steadier overall game, however. They have been up and down and all around at times this season.
Third, defense and rebounding. Lakers coach Phil Jackson called these two items key to the team’s success. We’ll add another: free throws. The Lakers went into tonight’s game shooting 77 percent, which is a high number. If they can kick it up a point or two, all the better.