The Lakers started off the third quarter on a 9-2 run to continue to blow the Blazers out of the water. With Kobe Bryant making nine of their first 11 points in the quarter, the game started to look as if it would take the same disastrous turn that it did the night before with Bryant being the only offensive force the Lakers sported throughout most of the game. Metta World Peace hit his first bucket of the game, which was a nice transition from the ugly attempts he had been taking a majority of the game.
The Trail Blazers continued to draw in fouls and grab offensive rebounds in the paint, realizing there was a lot of time left in the game to erase the large lead the Lakers began to throw away. The lead began to dwindle down from 22 to 19, then all of a sudden down the 16, forcing the Lakers to get back in gear and start playing the way they were to gain the large lead in the first place. Portland, who were hitting just under 54 percent from three point range with four minutes remaining in the quarter, kept taking advantage of their own open looks from beyond the arc and penalizing the home side for even offering it.
Tables began to turn as the quarter came to a close, with the Lakers giving away turnovers and slacking defensively while Portland were keeping better possession and slowly creeping within comeback range. Los Angeles’ bench returned to the floor, reigniting the flame they had sparked at the end of the first half with another impressive three from Steve Blake. Kobe began to take the forced difficult shots from beyond the arc that are literally impossible, but Matt Barnes proved his presence in the paint with another tip in to keep the Lakers lead above 17 points.
Nicolas Batum continued to be the force for the Blazers, however, as he sunk a long three as the shot clock buzzer rang with .4 seconds remaining in the quarter to cut the Lakers lead to 14. Portland kept nipping at the Lakers heels and it was beginning to pay off, as they entered the final quarter of the matchup down 80-66.
The Blazers entered the quarter looking to draw fouls and shut down Andrew Bynum in the paint, initiating the double team and getting back to back fouls called on the Lakers within the first minute. If they were looking to cut the lead to single digits and make a game of this in the closing minutes, they were needing defensive stops and to continue being hot from beyond the arc. The Lakers height proved a deciding factor in the game, however, with rebounding continuing to go in their favor to keep the lead at 14 within the first three minutes of the quarter.
A stellar play by the trio of Bynum, Barnes and Gasol was initiated from another Bynum defensive rebound. He quickly dished the ball to Barnes who then threw up the ally-oop to Gasol to smash home, bringing energy and life back to the crowd who had become dazed and bored with the massive lead the Lakers had been sporting a majority of the game. The Lakers continued to commit fouls, however, sending the Blazers to the line repeatedly which evidently cut the lead to 12 with a little under nine minutes remaining in the half.
Portland’s defense became increasingly intense as the clock began ticking down, forcing the Lakers to take unwanted shots leading to offensive runs with no baskets. Kobe Bryant was brought back onto the floor a few minutes earlier than what both he and Coach Mike Brown had wanted, as their once 30 point lead being cut down to 10 was a serious matter. Bryant reentering the game was exactly what the Lakers offense needed, as he hit consecutive buckets to get the rest of his team motivated to do the same. Nicolas Batum began missing some of the three’s he had been making for Portland a majority of the game, giving L.A. an edge as the game drew to a close.
The play for L.A. that put the nail in the coffin was off of another big rebound by Bynum. He threw the ball overhand down the court to an already sprinting Bryant, who weaved around the defender to put in another easy layup to take a 17 point lead. The Lakers were lucky to have gained such a great lead off of a combination of great offensive movement and Portland’s lack of defensive effort early in the game. Their second half performance was hardly as impressive, with a few glimpses of great play that kept their lead afloat. A huge 19 rebounds from Bynum alone set the page for the game, as the Lakers finished off Portland easily 103-92.