Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday evening home contest against Minnesota, the Lakers looking to win a fourth straight game, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom* and Gasol
Blazers: A. Miller, W. Matthews, N. Batum, G. Wallace, L. Aldridge
*Lamar Odom started in place of Andrew Bynum, who drew a two-game suspension for a flagrant foul in L.A.’s March 18 win over Minnesota.
10:00 Thanks to Lamar Odom, the Lakers may be the team in the NBA that would be affected the least by the loss of a player of Andrew Bynum’s level, which they’d have a chance to show against a Portland team starting a small line up with wing Gerald Wallace at the four. L.A. had Artest check Wallace, and Odom guard Nic Batum, with Pau Gasol matching up with LaMarcus Aldridge. Gasol got the better of everybody early, scoring the first two field goals plus three boards in a game where his box score was sure to stand out.
4:41 Odom’s tip in of a transition miss capped a 6-0 run for the Lakers, opening an 18-10 in the early goings. Portland Coach Nate McMillan had subbed Marcus Camby into the game, turning Portland from small to big with Aldridge at the four, which they’d need after the Lakers scored 12 of their points in the paint.
0:00 Overall, it was a solid first quarter for L.A., which got seven points on 3-of-5 shooting from a moving-fine-on-his-sore-ankle Bryant, six points with six boards from Gasol and four points apiece from Odom, Artest and Fisher in a balanced effort. The Blazers don’t score much inside compared to most teams, and rank 22nd overall in both points and field goal percentage, so Bynum’s absence isn’t felt quite as much even as Portland managed to match L.A.’s 10 rebounds and score only two fewer paint points.
8:30 It was quickly apparent where the Lakers missed Bynum, however, when Portland went on a 6-0 run with rookie Derrick Caracter playing the minutes usually filled by Bynum, committing two fouls with a charging turnover. Gasol was resting on the bench, but had to come back in after a time out to try and get things going the other way again.
2:23 Bryant’s three-pointer followed a Gasol dunk to open a six-point lead for the Lakers, the starters regaining control that had been taken away as Portland’s bench outplayed that of L.A. …
0:26.0 … But that was the final Lakers’ basket of the half, while Portland pulled off a 10-0 burst behind two three-pointers from Batum (19 points to lead all scorers). In that final stanza, the Lakers had three layups blocked at the rim, and another wide-open look at the rim from Odom simply miss. A poor stretch for the home team, to be sure.
9:30 Add five points onto that 10-0 run to close the second for Portland, the Lakers unable to buy a bucket as Gasol missed a short floater in the paint that made L.A. 0-for-5 in the third, allowing a 53-44 Blazers lead that only five minutes and change earlier had been a six-point Lakers advantage. Artest finally stopped the bleeding by making two free throws.
4:29 It had been a quiet night for Bryant, who’d scored just 10 points on 4-of-12 field goals with two assists before getting two free throws to fall. At times, he moved well, as when loading up for a baseline dunk before the two resulting foul shots, but his lateral movement appeared to be at least a bit restricted by his sore left ankle. With Bryant not 100 percent, Bynum out of the story and the Blazers playing well, L.A. found itself facing a 61-52 deficit.
0:00 What a way to end the quarter for Matt Barnes, who banked home a double-clutch buzzer beater from half court to cut Portland’s lead to 66-62 at the break. The Lakers rolled off a 10-5 run to close the quarter, including a 7-0 burst after Bryant went to the bench, to get right back in the mix.
6:40 L.A. had again cut Portland’s lead down to two, but a Rudy Fernandez three and 1-of-2 Camby free throws pushed it back up to six halfway through the final quarter. The Fernandez triple had come off Portland’s 15th offensive board of the contest as the Blazers continued to control the glass, with 40 boards to L.A.’s 31 at that point.
2:20 The biggest play of the game to that point came from Bryant, who picked Miller’s pocket on D before receiving Fisher’s return pass under the rim for an uncontested dunk, tying the score at 76. Odom had been critical to the comeback, No. 7 making 8-of-11 shots in the game to get to 16 points, plus 11 boards and six assists.
0:00 As it had so many times, the final two minutes belonged to Bryant, who nailed an extremely tough leaner over Aldridge to put the Lakers up two, then an impossibly difficult fadeaway on the baseline over Brandon Roy to give the Lakers an 82-77 lead with 32 seconds to play. Portland had a quick answer with Batum’s fourth three of the game, but it was then Fisher’s turn to step up, and he did by pulling up for an elbow jumper to put the Lakers up 84-80 with 10 seconds to play. Game over, win streak at four, and 12-of-13 wins out of the All-Star break, this one clinching the Pacific Division for the 22nd time.
We compiled some of the more interesting numbers from L.A.’s 84-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers winning for the 12th time in 13 games out of the All-Star break and fourth time in a row:
5 Straight shots made by the home team to finish the game, including three from Kobe Bryant and two from Derek Fisher. Portland, meanwhile, made only 1-of-8 to close the game. Phil Jackson cited improved awareness, energy and the forcing of turnovers as keys to the fourth quarter defense.
6 Turnovers forced by the Lakers in the fourth quarter, resulting in eight points at the other end, four of which came during a critical stretch in the final minutes as both Bryant and Fisher stole the ball and converted layups at the other end. "When it comes down the stretch, I’m comfortable just making the play,” said Fisher. "It’s not always going to be make a shot, but even defensively, just being in the right spot at the right time you get a steal, which then allows you to go down and make a shot.” His shot with 10 seconds left sealed the game, after his steal with two minutes left put L.A. up for the first time in the second half.
9 Blazers players who grabbed at least two rebounds, helping Portland out-board L.A. by 10 at 45-35.
9 The biggest lead for both teams at varying points of the action, though the lead changed hands only twice. The Lakers led by seven points after the first quarter, but Portland rallied to lead by four at the half and after three quarters. L.A. reclaimed the lead for good on Fisher’s transition layup with 1:56 on the clock.
17.6 L.A.’s shooting percentage from the three-point line, as only 3-of-17 went down. Bryant hit two of his seven attempts, while Ron Artest was 0-for-3, Shannon Brown 0-for-2 and Steve Blake and Fisher both 0-for-1. Matt Barnes added the other make on three attempts.
27.8 Portland’s shooting percentage in the fourth quarter on 5-of-18 from the field, which Phil Jackson said was in part due to a strong defensive start from sub Matt Barnes in the final period. Portland shot just 38.6 percent for the game as a result.
73 Lamar Odom’s shooting percentage on 8-of-11 field goals in an outstanding all-around game. He scored 16 points with 11 rebounds and a game-high six assists, plus two steals in 41 minutes of action. Portland assistant coach Bob Ociepka echoed comments from Minnesota assistant J.B. Bickerstaff that Odom was by far the most difficult sub (starting for Bynum in this one) for whom to prepare in the NBA.