for this game

Trail Blazers look to maintain postseason standing

Apr 11, 2009 - 6:57 AM By Brett Huston Stats Writer

Portland (51-28) at LA Clippers (19-60) 10:30 p.m. EDT

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers strengthened their chances of earning home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a victory over the Western Conference's best team.

They can take another big step by defeating one of the conference's worst.

Dominant at home all season, the Trail Blazers have begun playing well on the road lately, a trend they'll look to continue Saturday night when they try to maintain their hold on the West's No. 4 seed against the lowly Los Angeles Clippers.

Portland still has a chance to win the Northwest Division and finish as high as second in the West, but it needs Denver to lose its two remaining games - including one against league-worst Sacramento - for that to happen.

The Blazers, though, still have an excellent chance to finish third or fourth in the West and earn home-court advantage in the first round.

That's largely thanks to their recent play on the road. Portland was 13-19 through its first 32 games away from home, but has since won six of eight, including a 95-83 victory Wednesday against San Antonio - one of the teams with whom the Blazers are competing for home court.

Winning at home hasn't been a problem for Portland all season, and Friday night it picked up its 32nd win at the Rose Garden. Brandon Roy had 24 points and eight assists to rally the Blazers past the conference-best Los Angeles Lakers, 106-98.

"These last two wins were huge for us and for our confidence. We beat the Spurs, and we feel good about how we match up with the Lakers," Roy said. "This says a lot about our team. If we play in the playoffs like we played tonight, I like our chances against anybody."

Portland and San Antonio are tied, but the Blazers own the tiebreaker by virtue of taking three of four from the Spurs in the regular season. That means if they win out - games against the Clippers, Oklahoma City and Denver remain - they'll finish no worse than fourth as they make their first postseason appearance since 2003.

Beating the Clippers wouldn't appear too challenging, but Los Angeles is coming off its most lopsided victory in more than three years.

The Clippers didn't have leading scorer Zach Randolph - serving the second of a two-game team suspension after his DUI arrest earlier this week - but they didn't need him. Brian Skinner had 21 points and 10 rebounds in a rare start and Eric Gordon added 20 points in a 109-78 win over Sacramento that snapped Los Angeles' six-game losing streak.

The 31-point margin was the Clippers' largest since a 112-79 win over Denver on January 28, 2006.

Randolph will likely return Saturday, and Los Angeles got two of its other big men back against the Kings. Center Chris Kaman had missed the previous three games because of flu-like symptoms, but had 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. Marcus Camby also returned after missing five games with a sprained ankle.

"We came out, moved the ball and got our guys the open shots," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "It's really good to have Marcus and Chris back in the lineup."

Los Angeles needs to be concerned about its perimeter defense, though, if it hopes to have a chance to snap its three-game home slide against the Blazers. Roy has averaged 30.3 points in three games against the Clippers, including 33 in a 113-88 win at Staples Center on January 26.