Losers of every single contest held at the Rose Garden since February 2005, the Los Angeles Lakers lost again to the Portland Trailblazers on their home court, 106-98. It was a heated contest from start to finish as both teams made run after run to regain the lead. Andrew Bynum, making his second start back from his MCL injury, played well in the first half but appeared to tire in the later parts of the game. Portland’s version of its MVP, Brandon Roy, scored 24 points and handed out 8 assists. He carried the Blazers when they needed him the most, scoring 8 of points in the final period. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 32 points, but he faltered late with a pair of missed three point attempts and a costly turnover. By winning, the Blazers remain tied with San Antonio for the 4th seed in the Western Conference. Los Angeles (63-17) sees its hope of catching Cleveland (64-15) for the best overall record all but disappear. The game see-sawed back and forth with the Lakers trailing the Blazers by one point, 23-24 after the 1st period. The Lakers went on a 14-2 run in the 2nd quarter to take a ten point lead, 50-40, but saw that double digit lead quickly dissipate as the Blazers rallied with their own 9-3 run to trail going into the half, 49-53.
The third quarter belonged to the Blazers as fatigue appeared to set in with the Lakers. They outscored the Lakers, 32-24 in that period and held a 81-77 edge going into the final quarter. A pair of Shannon Brown treys and a bucket plus a trey from Kobe knotted the score at 91-91. But the Lakers were never able to get over the hump, crawling to within 98-99 with 3:01 left to play. The Blazers went on a 7-0 run to end the contest and extended the Lakers winless streak in Portland to 8 consecutive games. Lamar Odom was a spark off the bench, providing 17 points and 10 rebounds. Andrew Bynum added 13 points and 6 rebounds in 31 minutes of action, but Pau Gasol managed only 12 points and 4 rebounds. Brown, getting the bulk of the back-up minutes at point guard in lieu of Jordan Farmar, added 10 points (4-4, 2-2 FT). Trevor Ariza and Derek Fisher continued their struggles from the field combining for only 6 points on 3-11 from the floor.
Portland got 16 points apiece from Steve Blake and LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Fernandez added 15 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. Greg Oden played easily his best game against the Lakers, totaling 10 points and 6 rebounds in only 23 minutes. With two home games remaining against Memphis and Utah to close out the season, the Lakers head into the playoffs unsure of their rotation and a little shaken. Portland on the other hand, appears confident of their chances should they meet the Lakers in the second round. The Lakers were coached by Assistant Kurt Rambis as Phil Jackson remained in Los Angeles to rest his sore leg. Rambis appeared to make some questionable moves leaving Luke Walton in the game for long stretches against the faster, more athletic Blazers. Walton did manage to dish off for 8 assists, but he provided only 3 points on 1-6 shooting and fouled out of the contest. Rambis also replaced Shannon Brown with Derek Fisher at the end of the game even though Brown was having his best outing since breaking into the rotation. Fisher missed an open three pointer that would have tied the score at 101.
The Lakers return back to the safe confines of Staples Center for their contest against the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if they’re lucky, someone else will prevail at the Rose Garden and eliminate the Blazers from crashing our party.