Kobe Bryant confident in Lakers

Kobe Bryant evidently is confident the Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs -- and be a factor when they get there.

Bryant said in an interview with Sports Illustrated that he is certain the struggling Lakers will make the playoffs. The 15-time All-Star also claimed he has "no fear" of any potential postseason opponent in the competitive Western Conference.

"It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will," Bryant told Sports Illustrated. "And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone -- Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver ... whoever. I have zero nervousness about that."

The Lakers (26-29) have won six of their last nine games, including Wednesday's 113-99 victory over the Boston Celtics. But despite the recent hot streak, Los Angeles trails the Houston Rockets by 3½ games for the eighth spot in the conference standings.

Bryant, the NBA's fourth-leading scorer at 26.6 points per game, cited a loss earlier this month to the Miami Heat as one of the sources of his confidence.

The Lakers dropped a 107-97 decision in Miami on Feb. 10 to conclude a seven-game road trip. Despite the loss, Bryant told Sports Illustrated the Lakers showed positive signs in the contest.

"We will make the playoffs," he said. "And we will compete. And part of the reason I have that confidence is the Miami game. We had control of the game. That was no fluke. We were playing very, very well. We were reading the defense, making the extra pass.

"OK, they have two great players [LeBron James and Dwyane Wade] who scored eight straight buckets and took control of the game. But we were right there. We can do it."

The Lakers host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, opening an eight-game stretch in which five of their opponents have losing records.