Blazers eye Northwest crown, sweep of Lakers

( - The Portland Trail Blazers can clinch the Northwest Division title (with a little help) Friday night when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.

A Friday win for the Blazers, coupled with an Oklahoma City Thunder loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis, would give Portland its first Northwest Division title since the 2008-09 season, when it shared the crown with the Denver Nuggets.

The Blazers last outright division title in a full season came in 1990-91.

Portland had a four-game winning streak halted Wednesday night thanks to a 126-122 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Trail Blazers tried everything to stop Chris Paul, including shoving him the back, but it wasn't enough. Paul finished with 41 points and 17 assists in the Portland setback.

Paul appeared to hit Chris Kaman in the groin with his left hand while grabbing a loose ball rebound. Kaman retaliated by pushing him in the back near the baseline and walking away from the ensuing fracas.

Clippers forward Glen Davis rushed after Kaman, but was sent flying backward by a LaMarcus Aldridge shove.

"I'm not talking about that," Kaman said of the skirmish.

"Nothing out of the ordinary ... people pushing each other," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "I would definitely say the Clippers picked up their aggressiveness."

Portland led 92-81 prior to the skirmish. The Clippers then went on a 27-8 run following the incident to seize control of the contest before holding on in the final minute.

"A game we could've, should've won," Stotts said.

Aldridge scored 29 points, Nicolas Batum had 21 and Damian Lillard supplied 18 points and 10 assists for Portland.

The Lakers returned to LA after a 2-3 road trip and immediately fell to the New Orleans Pelicans, 113-92, on Wednesday.

Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers with 18 points and 10 assists, while Tarik Black added a career-high 16 points.

The Lakers have lost three of their last four.

"It was tough tonight, because they have 7-footers just waiting by the rim to rebound the ball," Black said. "We have to find a way to play acceptable basketball."

The Pelicans opened the second quarter on a 14-4 run for a 43-35 lead. The Lakers remained in striking distance until Ryan Anderson canned successive 3- pointers late in the frame to help the visitors to a 60-49 lead at the break.

Eric Gordon's 3-pointer with 5:25 left in the third put New Orleans up 81-61, and it held a 20-point edge entering the fourth. The Pelicans had no problem closing out the struggling Lakers in the final frame.

Portland has won four straight against the Lakers and is seeking its first season sweep since the 1993-94 campaign.