Despite a losing every back end of back-to-back games, the Lakers looked for a rare win in the Rose Garden tonight. Although the Trail Blazers are well out of the playoff race, they would like nothing more but to see the Lakers at the 2013 NBA Lottery Draft. Good news for the Lakers, the Blazers have lost their last eight games and will be starting four rookies tonight. Bad news for the Lakers, they don’t even have a draft pick. Last night’s victory combined with a Jazz loss to the Thunder put the Lakers back into the eighth seed by half a game. The Jazz do not play until Friday against the Timberwolves.
The Trail Blazers were the first to score with a jump shot from Barton, but Kobe, playing the facilitator role, worked the ball in for a Dwight Howard dunk. The Trail Blazers had nothing to lose and were quick to pull the trigger as Lillard, a potential Rookie of the Year candidate, sank two pull up threes in a row. With Hickson out of the game, the Lakers looked for the bigs early and often. Dwight Howard easily drove past Meyers Leonard for another easy dunk. Metta World Peace entered the game with eight minutes left in the first quarter. The Lakers were slow to get back on defense, and the younger quicker Portland squad stimulated their offensive early. Lillard continued his shooting clinic, giving the Trailblazers an early ten point lead, forcing a timeout.
After a stellar game against Dallas on Monday, was pushed around by Kobe Bryant who easily took advantage of the mismatch, and forced the Trailblazers to play zone defense. Unfortunately, Dwight Howard picked up two early fouls and had to sit, which hurts the Lakers offensive strategy and defensive presence. Lillard and Kobe battled offensively trading baskets, and both finished the first quarter with 17 points. Everything seemed to go in for the Trail Blazers as they shot 68% in the first quarter, partially due to Lillard’s seven assists, setting the tone early, they led the first quarter 41-33.
Kobe picked up where he left off in the first quarter with a pull up jump shot. With Dwight Howard on the bench, Kobe concluded his facilitator role and looked for his shot. The Lakers did a great job of rebounding in the second quarter, slowing down the Blazers, who were slow to rotate on defense. They lost track of Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison, and Jodie Meeks who all found their groove sinking threes, bringing the deficit down to three points. But Portland showed no sign of slowing down as the two teams seemed to make every shot they took. Dwight Howard reentered the game and did a great job of dominating the glass and running the floor.
Just as the Lakers seemed to catch the Blazers, they were able to spread the lead back to double digits. The Lakers committed mindless turnovers, and blew defensive assignments, feeding directly into the Trail Blazers offense. The Blazers more than moderate shooting performance would not last the entire game, unless the Lakers allow them to. Unlike last night’s game, Kobe did not pace himself, conserving energy for the fourth quarter as he made plays on both ends of the floor, including a huge block as Barton went in for an open court dunk. The lack luster Lakers were down by 11 until Lillard picked up a technical foul, allowing the Lakers to finish the half with a single digit debt. Fans were in for a treat tonight as Kobe finished the first half with 28 points and Lillard finished with 25 points and seven assists. The Blazers maintained their lead 69-61.
To start the half, the Trail Blazers double teamed Kobe at half court, which led Steve Blake wide open for a three. The Lakers played a lot more aggressively on defense, which led to easy offense, as the Lakers started the half with an 10-0 run, taking the lead. Kobe inspired his team, making plays on both ends of the floor, including a stand still three from 40 feet. Dwight dominated inside against Leonard with some Shaqesque moves. The Lakers seemed to be back on the right track until Steve Blake picked up a careless technical, leading to a six more Lillard points. The Trail Blazers sank eleven three-pointers, 53%, in the first three quarters, four from Babbitt and five from Lillard.
The Lakers pick and roll game remained effective, either giving Kobe open shots or forcing the Blazers to double team Kobe, opening up the court for Pau and Dwight. Metta World Peace seemed to be a little slow, recovering from knee surgery, but was able to body his way for four points. Earl Clark started, but had another ghostly night, contributing just one three. Most of the slack was picked up by Kobe who shot over double and triple teams, without sitting out of the game. Kobe and Lillard remained the leaders of the game, but Dwight Howard was able to be a lot more effective this quarter with 16 points. The Lakers caught up a bit, trailing 90-88.
The Lakers tied the game with a Pau Gasol baby hook, but poor rotations on defense put the Trail Blazers back up by five. The Lakers returned to their successful pick and roll offense which led to open jump shots for Pau. Kobe did it all making several excellent defensive stops, including four blocks and three steals. Following Kobe’s lead, the Lakers began to make some stops and regained the lead. A clear path call on Lillard, led to a four point Laker possession, giving the Lakers a six point lead. Dwight Howard’s four fouls did not slow him down as his presence was felt in the paint, blocking Lillard’s shot into the third row.
The Rose Garden began to echo with “Lets go Lakers” chants. The Trail Blazers shooting went cold as another pick and roll resulted in a Dwight Howard alley-oop dunk. In 48 minutes Kobe filled the stat sheet with a season high 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks, three steals, and only one turnover. Pau Gasol found Dwight under the basket on numerous occasions, contributing 23 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Damian Lillard did an exceptional job carrying his team with 38 points and nine assists, but the Lakers ambition was too much for the Trail Blazers, as they put this one away 113-106.