The Portland Trailblazers sit last in the Pacific Northwest Division yet they're just 3.5 games behind the Houston Rockets for the 8th playoff spot. Next stop on their list is a trip to the Staples Center to visit the Lakers.

Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 pm ET at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

Currently, NBA betting odds have the Los Angeles Lakers as a 9.5 point favorite and the total for the game is 195. As we near the homestretch of the season, will Portland find a way to stun the Lakers, or will LA not only take the win, but cover the NBA odds spread as well? Find out who I am adding to my NBA picks tonight.

This hasn't been one of the Lakers best seasons, and at 29-18 but they reside on top of the Pacific West Division with a 3 game lead over the disappointing L.A. Clippers. Can the Blazers pull off back to back bigtime performances to preserve their season and give them a shot at the playoffs? 

Batum's opportunity 

With forward Gerald Wallace being traded to the New Jersey Nets, this is Nicolas Batum's chance to shine as the 2nd best player on the Blazers. Batum is dangerous to the opposition because he's a streaky player that can score, rebound, and hit the 3-ball. Lately, Batum has tailed off at the wrong time, yet he is still averaging 12.3 points and 4.1 rebounds on 42.3% shooting in his last 10 games.

Batum came up huge and took some of the burden off of LaMarcus Aldridge with a 24 point performance on 4 of 8 shooting from 3 point range in a victory over Memphis. This is a young player that bring's high energy to the Blazers ball club, and Portland need's a big performance out of the Frenchman against the Lakers. It will be interesting to see how he steps up against Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. 

Blazer Ballhog 

LaMarcus Aldridge knows that his team was merely average with Gerald Wallace, and now he needs to take things into his own hand's, and tonight will be no acception. Aldridge is the one established star that the Lakers won't have an answer for if he's playing his best basketball.

At 6 foot 11, 240 pounds, Aldridge has more agility to his game than the Lakers bigmen. He can get physical at times and has a soft hook in the paint. On the season, Aldridge has averaged 21.2 points and 8 rebounds per game. He's had a slight dropoff in the month of March and has been slightly inconsistent. The NBA is a grind and this can sometimes occur, but there will be no room for a dropoff in this game, as the Blazers need LaMarcus to bring his "A game" to the Staples Center.

LA knocks of the champs

Lakers vs. TrailblazersAlthough it was a nice 16 point victory for the Lakers in front of owner Marc Cuban and the Dallas crowd, beating Dallas isn't the amazing feat it was last season.

One major positive that can be taken away from this game was the play of newly required Ramon Sessions. Sessions had his best game as a member of the Lakers. In 29 minutes, Sessions scored 17 points, had 9 assists, and grabbed 5 rebounds. He was efficient, shooting 7 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 from 3 point land. Sessions is a legitimate offensive player and is a major upgrade from Derek Fisher.

L.A. really made a solid move here and this could put them back into title contention later in the season. For the time being, look for Sessions to play well against an inferior Blazers team in front of the home crowd. This was a player that didn't get the recognition in a small market area like Cleveland, and could really thrive in LA.

Burning up the nets

Although Andrew Bynum has been the breakout player for the Lakers this season, Pau Gasol has been the hottest player as of late. 

In his last 2 games, Gasol has been nearly automatic. He's averaging 24 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting an amazing 23 for 30 from the field. Look for LA to have a decisive advantage with the Twin Towers of Gasol and Bynum. Gasol should put up huge numbers in this game as he's "feeling it". 

Key head to head meetings 

Under is 6-2 in the last 8 meetings at Los Angeles

Home team is 10-4 ATS in the last 14 meetings

Underdog is 22-10 ATS meetings

Outcome at Staples 

Both teams are coming off nice wins, but LA has a major advantage in the middle with Gasol and Bynum and I'm elated with their pickup of Ramon Sessions. Now remember, I haven't even mentioned Kobe Bryant. Portland can't compete with a veteran ball club like the Lakers. Take LA at home and lay the points.

Friday night NBA pick - Lakers -9.5