Lakers try to stay in postseason hunt, pay a visit to Blazers

The Los Angeles Lakers clawed back into the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, and now will try to hold on to it Wednesday night when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Lakers topped the New Orleans Hornets 104-96 on Tuesday night at the Staples Center. The victory leaped them over the Utah Jazz into that final postseason spot out west.

Los Angeles leads the Jazz by just a half game. The Lakers have four games left, but Wednesday's is the final road contest of the season. They close at home against the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.

On Tuesday, the Lakers came from behind to get the victory as Metta World Peace returned to the lineup. World Peace was initially expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season after undergoing a procedure to repair a torn lateral meniscus on March 28.

World Peace came off the bench Tuesday night and scored four points in 15 minutes.

"He'll keep getting back into it little by little," head coach Mike D'Antoni said World Peace. "Whatever he can give us helps, and the minutes he gave us were good minutes."

Kobe Bryant had 23 points in the fourth quarter and 33 for the game to lead the comeback.

"They keyed in on my penetration, but I know I could range over the defense and get the shot," Bryant said. "So, with games like this, when the jumper is falling, you have fourth quarters like I had."

Pau Gasol had 22 points and 11 rebounds and Dwight Howard scored 19 points while playing most of the night in foul trouble.

The Blazers have lost eight in a row thanks to a 96-91 home loss Sunday to the Dallas Mavericks. Portland only managed 32 points in the first half and trailed by 24 points at the half.

Nicolas Batum didn't play on Sunday and called himself a game-time decision for Wednesday, although head coach Terry Stotts labeled him as doubtful. Wesley Matthews won't play with an ankle issue and J.J. Hickson is questionable with a back problem.

Will Barton is expected to start in Matthews' absence as Portland may start four rookies Wednesday. Barton was sensational on Sunday, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in 32 minutes.

"He was terrific. He did a little bit of everything and I can't say enough about what he did," said Stotts.

The Lakers took two of three this season against Portland, although both victories came in L.A. The Lakers have dropped three straight in Rose City.