After a tough loss in Phoenix Sunday night at the hands of the Suns, the Lakers were back in Los Angeles to try to regain some self esteem and get back to their winning ways. L.A. were playing host to the Portland Trail Blazers, who were coming off of a twenty point home win versus the Hawks that boosted themselves to a 17-15 season record.
The Lakers loss to the Suns the night before had many fans shaking their heads in disbelief, as at one point in the third quarter they were trailing by a 27-point margin to the team they easily finished off on Friday. Their slow start to open the game accompanied by their lack of offensive effort from the bench, or more specifically anyone other than Kobe Bryant, led to their swift and inevitable downfall. An excessive amount of rumors that have been swirling around the media about whether Pau Gasol will be shipped away in a trade or not also has a lot of the players on edge, forcing Bryant to make a statement after their abysmal game in Phoenix to bring an end to the madness. With all the negativity built up before the players even take the court, the Lakers had to be thankful that they were playing host in the Staples Center, looking to continue winning to feed their already impressive home record.
Portland opened up the game right away with a three from Raymond Felton, to which both teams were unable to answer for the next three minutes. The Lakers missed their first five shot attempts until Andrew Bynum finally got the ball rolling with back to back slams to take the early lead. Both Portland and Los Angeles looked lackadaisical in the opening five minutes of the quarter, as no one looked to take their own shot and continued searching for the open man to pass it to instead of taking it to the hole.
Bynum continued being the final piece to the puzzle throughout these plays, however, as he scored L.A.’s first six from the field. Kobe Bryant continued to look for passes instead of the open shot, including a play in which he fed the ball to Pau Gasol for an easy layup, putting the Lakers on a 10-0 run and forcing the visitors to call a timeout. The first six minutes of the quarter showed off arguably the best consecutive 10 points the Lakers have accumulated all season, with offensive teamwork and dominant rebounding, giving them complete control of the game.
With Gasol and Bynum combining for 15 rebounds in the first quarter alone, Portland looked like they were going to have to find a different offensive gameplan in order to score more than seven points each quarter for the remainder of the game. Whenever the Trail Blazers brought the ball down the court, the Lakers defense clogged any sort of passes or routes they tried to accomplish, repeatedly putting the ball in the home team’s hands to take a larger and larger lead as the quarter came to a close. Kobe Bryant shot 4-7 in the first quarter, showing off how great his knees were feeling with spectacular layups and the initiation of excellent ball movement. Portland, on the other hand, ended the first 12 minutes 3-17 from the field with a mere seven points, trailing the Lakers 29-7.
In order for the Lakers to continue this dominant play they showcased in the first quarter, three main things were needed to continue. They had to continue moving the ball around intelligently, looking for the open man and the smartest shooting decision to execute easy baskets. They were also needing big presence in the paint, with the plethora of both points and rebounds keeping the ball in their hands giving Portland no chance or any baskets. Finally, they were needing the bench to make a lot larger impact than they did the night before, which Steve Blake answered to by draining a three to initiate the second quarter.
Blake continued to shine after what seemed like an unimpressive effort in Phoenix the night before, helping the Lakers go on a 21-0 run with back to back three’s in the first minute of the quarter. LaMarcus Aldridge finally ended the Blazers drought with a three point play, drawing a foul while putting up a layup to cut the Lakers lead to 27 points. Jamal Crawford and Wesley Matthews followed up with back to back three pointers, but Steve Blake continued lighting up the floor, hitting another wide open three to put his personal total at 11.
The Trail Blazers defense continued to be unable to compete with the ball movement and offensive speed the Lakers were bringing to the court, but eventually the Lakers began to get lazier, resulting to the easy outside looks rather than working for the open baskets. Although Portland began finding themselves offensively and drawing fouls to send themselves to the free throw line, their turnovers continued to kill them. Nicolas Batum led the charge for the Blazers with 12 points, which all came within the final nine minutes of the first half. Steve Blake finished the half with the game high 14 points, a complete turnaround and bench boost from what we have been seeing in recent games. The Lakers initial charge proved to be enough to continue grasping control of the game, as they entered the locker room on top 52-30.
Next Page: Second Half