Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have 10 championship rings between the two of them. On Sunday night they provided a glimpse as to why, as they both hit several big buckets late, rallying the Lakers to an 84-80 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.
The Lakers played the game without center Andrew Bynum, who was suspended two games by the NBA for his flagrant foul on Friday night. Without Bynum patrolling the paint, the Blazers were able to dominate the Lakers on the glass, and led the game for most of the night despite very poor shooting. In fact, neither team looked good on offense.
Bryant led the Lakers with 22 points, but scored 10 of them in the fourth quarter with the game very much in doubt. His short jumper in the lane with just over a minute left gave the Lakers an 80-76. Thirty seconds later, he hit a picture-perfect fallaway baseline jumper over Brandon Roy that gave the Lakers an 82-77 lead. That seemingly was the dagger for the champs.
However Portland wouldn’t quit. After they got to within two at 82-80, Fisher stuck a 17-foot jumper with 10 seconds left and the shot clock running out to seal the victory the Lakers. Fisher also had two sensational defensive plays in the final minutes, and scored a layup with just under two left to put the Lakers up 78-76, a lead they would never relinquish.
The win pushed the surging champs to 12-1 since the All-Star game, and clinched their fourth straight Pacific Division crown. They also stayed one game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for the second place in the Western Conference standings. Los Angeles is now 3-0 against Blazers this year, marking the first time since the 2004-05 season the Lakers will win the season series.
Lamar Odom, starting for Bynum, scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Pau Gasol had 14 points and 13 rebounds, and Ron Artest chipped in with 10 points.
For the game, the Lakers held Portland to a miserable 38.6% (32-83) from the field and just 6-25 (24.0%) from the three-point line. Neither team shot the ball particularly well. The Lakers did finish at 44.9% (35-78) from the floor, but just 3-17 (17.6%) from beyond the arc. The one bright spot was they hit 11 of their 12 free throws. Portland won the rebound battle easily 45-35, including 17-9 at the offensive end, certainly a sign the Lakers missed Bynum’s presence in the middle.
Nicolas Batum led the Blazers with 25 points, scoring 22 of them in the first three quarters. He did make 4-9 from long range. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 18 points to go along with six rebounds, and Rudy Fernandez was the only other Portland player in double figures. He had 10 points, but hit just 3-10 shots. At one point the Portland went on 15-0 scoring run in the game, spanning halftime.
The Trail Blazers did lose forward/center Marcus Camby late in the game as he appeared to injure his ankle. A big loss for a team trying to make a push towards the playoffs, and with a tough schedule coming up.
The Lakers are now 3-0 on their seven-game homestand, and will take on the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night at Staples Center. The last time the Suns were in Los Angeles, they hit 22-40 three-pointers on their way to a shocking 121-116 win back on November 14. The Lakers have won both games in Phoenix this season.