Welcoming some 2,000 fans back to Moda Center isn't the Trail Blazers' only fortunate break for their biggest game of the season.
Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel confirmed a previous report that LeBron James, still nursing a sore right ankle, won't play against Portland on Friday.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this week that the reigning Finals MVP would sit out his team's back-to-back versus the LA Clippers and Blazers.
Vogel had previously held out public hope that James might return for the Portland game, telling reporters the four-time champion would test his ankle Friday morning before making a final decision on his availability.
James, clearly, just isn't healthy enough to go, an especially problematic development for the Lakers because they're without two other playmakers. Talen Horton-Tucker isn't a household name, obviously, but is one of two players on Los Angeles' roster other than James capable of making plays for himself and his teammates off the bounce with some semblance of consistency.
The other? Dennis Schroder, entered into the league's health and safety protocols on Monday. The Lakers will be without their starting point guard until at least May 12, when they meet the Houston Rockets, and could miss potentially miss him until the play-in tournament begins on May 18.
Portland, seventh in the West, trails Los Angeles and the Dallas Mavericks by a half-game in the standings. If the Clippers take care of business against their cross-arena rivals on Thursday, though, the Blazers and Lakers will be deadlocked when they tipoff 24 hours later at Moda Center – with the head-to-head tie-breaker on the line.
Portland doesn't just have a golden opportunity to help lift itself out of the play-in on Friday, but also push reeling Los Angeles into it. No pressure.