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Lakers: Andrew Bynum, Sun Yue
Trail Blazers: Raef LaFrentz , Greg Oden , Martell Webster
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Walton, Odom and Gasol
Blazers: Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Pryzbilla*
*Rookie center Greg Oden remains out with a left knee injury.
Tonight’s Bottom Line
Phil Jackson summed up what we’ve heard about L.A.’s struggles in this building quite succinctly before the game: “The reality is that they are up for this game, their town is up for this game, they point to these games and we don’t meet the energy.”
Busted Ear Drum Update
12:00 It doesn’t take long to put Portland’s home crowd right up there with Golden State, Utah, Boston and Cleveland as one of the league’s loudest. They have an edge on G.S. this year in terms of liking their team, are much more benevolent than Utah (understatement – ever been to Salt Lake City for a game [cover your ears]?) and slightly less spiteful than Boston. Cleveland’s the most similar atmosphere to my mind, though Portland’s sound system is the best. The pregame intros almost blew both my ear drums (literally), leaving me thankful that my ears are less crucial than my eyes, but sad that I’ll no longer be able to conduct interviews. Ty explained from L.A.: “They have some panels on the ceiling that they can flip to keep the noise in and turn to dampen the noise when they have concerts.” Yeah, I guess…
11:33 It didn’t get any quieter when Aldridge started the game with a corner three-pointer, though Gasol answered immediately with a 17-footer.
9:37 After laying one in on the previous possession, Kobe pulled up on Batum for a long jumper, L.A.’s third make in four attempts, to give the visitors a 6-5 lead. Meanwhile, I regained 10% hearing in my left ear.
8:47 We know that Odom’s struggled to score lately, and that Phil Jackson wasn’t happy in particular with Odom’s free throwing. Jackson said that they worked with Odom this week on his form, and apparently it paid off as he swished two straight.
5:30 The Blazers spent the better part of three minutes going straight at the teeth of L.A.’s defense, getting back-to-back layups from Roy to go up 17 in capping a 12-2 run. Batum also went unmolested towards two dunks, which might beg two words from Lakers Nation’s collective mind: Andrew Bynum? If Odom and Gasol aren’t able to defend the paint better, perhaps D.J. Mbenga will have to enter the fray. The bigs, however, shouldn’t get all the blame, as L.A.’s perimeter defenders were conceding dribble drives quite easily.
4:55 Batum baseline dunked over Gasol. Same story.
2:24 Odom’s offensive flow was quite good through the opening several minutes, capped by an alley-oop layup from Gasol to cut Portland’s lead to 21-16. That gave him six points on 2-of-2 from the field, while Bryant checked in with eight. Luke Walton missed two wide-open baseline jumpers, and Gasol was an uncharacteristic 1-of-5 to start the game as the Lakers shot only 38 percent as a team to Portland’s 50 percent.
1:39 The Lakers are trapping Roy aggressively out of the high pick and roll, but it didn’t stop him from getting to the hoop again, where he’s already among the league’s best finishers. His fourth field goal in five attempts put Portland up 23-16, a lead which grew to nine on a Channing Frye hook shot.
The quarter ended with the same score after a tough Jordan Farmar look went awry, leaving me with this thought: L.A. looks like a team that’s only played twice in the last seven days, but they’d be wise not to take much longer to warm up…
L.A. completed the first making just 7-of-22 shots (31 percent), getting smoked in the paint 20-6 and grabbing just one of their 15 misses. L.A. can’t do much worse on those numbers…
11:36 With Gasol staying in alongside Farmar, Vujacic, Ariza and Powell, L.A.’s first offensive possession wasn’t what Tex Winter envisioned: shot clock violation after Ariza air-balled in the face of a double team.
10:53 The Lakers second unit continued to get outplayed as Fernandez went to the hoop plus the harm and Outlaw buried a three for a 31-16 lead.
9:10 Mbenga checked in for Pau after one of the three Spaniards on the floor (Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez for Portland) scored four straight points for L.A. to make it a 33-22 game. Outlaw, however, then buried another three to make the lead 14.
8:12 If you’re looking for a fun, high-energy matchup, check out Fernandez vs. Vujacic. The two internationals have been taking turns chasing each other all over the place, with the latest race resulting in a Sasha jumper around a curl. Moments later, however, Jackson took Vujacic out in favor of Bryant, as Roy checked in for Frye. So, we’ll have to wait until the end of the third quarter or so for the Grand Prix to resume.
5:48 Walton made two excellent plays on consecutive ends of the floor, first anticipating a Rodriguez pass, then sealing his man at the other end for a layup. L.A. was within 10 – for a second, since Fernandez and Outlaw hit back-to-back threes.
3:05 LaMarcus Alridge dunked easily after Roy penetrated and drew Odom off Alridge to put Portland up by a gaudy 19 points, prompting a “Beat L.A.” chant (for the fifth or so time) and reminding us how much Portland cares about beating the Lakers. Meanwhile, the jumbotron showed a Blazers fan with this sign: “Our L.A. is prettier than yours.” Um … No. You’re saying that Aldridge, as a man, is “prettier,” generally speaking, than the city of Los Angeles? What? Thanks for trying, and congrats on making the jumbotron, but that doesn’t make sense.
1:24 L.A. just can’t get a break. Is this what everyone on the Lakers staff has been hammering into my head all weak as I protested that the Blazers weren’t so good to be spoken of like the 1996 Chicago Bulls? Well, L.A.’s shots were falling as often as snow in Tijuana, and Portland’s basket seemed to have a six-foot wide circumference. When Portland missed, the long rebounds were falling their way. When they drove the lane, contact fouls are awarded. Outlaw in particular was been unstoppable, and with his leaner following a Blake triple, Portland was shooting 60 percent to take a 60-36 lead. Really? This is what happens in Portland?
0:03.9 Just for good measure, the refs called Odom for an off ball foul on Outlaw, who feel to the ground when the two made contact. That was Odom’s third, and resulted in 1-of-2 free throws that gave the Mississippi high school product a game-high 17 points and put Portland up 61-38 heading into the locker room.
How badly did things really go in the first half? Well, L.A.’s 23-point deficit was three more points than the biggest deficit of the season, which came all the way back on Nov. 14 against Detroit. Portland’s bench outscored L.A.’s 39-7, and come to think of it, the Blazer bench outscored the entire Lakers team by a point.
Red Panda Performs for Mike Trudell for a Record 85th Time
OK, it’s actually the 13th. I’ve literally seen the Red Panda – you know, the lady who flips bowls on her head while balancing on a unicycle – in 12 arenas over the last three years, including twice at STAPLES and twice in Minnesota’s Target Center. I’m over it in general, but I will say that the worst thrower of the bowls I’ve ever seen is L.A’s own Paul Nankivell. He was just horrible (horrrrrible), and nearly knocked the Panda off her cycle with one particular fastball.
11:40 Maybe it was just the basket? Kobe from 16 feet = good.
7:42 It took the Lakers quite a bit of hard work just to cut the lead to 20 at 67-47 on a Fisher three. Considering the crowd and young Blazers players (who weren’t born when the one-sided playoff rivalry between these two teams) are all exhibiting maximum effort, the Lakers have really built a massive hole out of which to try and climb. Portland’s having an Outlaw waiting on the bench doesn’t help either.
6:09 We mentioned Outlaw and Roy, but Joel Pryzbilla is killing the Lakers. He grabbed, count ‘em, six offensive boards (12 total) that have produced 12 points, including this latest put-back kept the lead at 20.
4:57 OK, Portland, Roy’s an All-Star, but “MVP” chants?
3:31 K, it’s just in not in the cards for your team when Alridge is draining his second three of the night at the end of the shot clock. Blazers 76, Lakers 51.
1:39 And it’s 30. Fernandez for three. Other than the fact that L.A. sucks in Portland, the only thing I’m taking out of this game thus far is that Bynum’s absence may finally be taking its toll. We saw it a bit in Denver and Phoenix, and even for stretches against Memphis and Minnesota. When Bynum first went down, Kobe, Lamar and Pau were so fantastic that any other contributions were gravy – just like Boston’s 29-2 start, in which Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and even Rajon Rondo were just carrying their team with no bench contribution. Then it caught up to ‘em, and now with Odom off the bench, it’s catching up to L.A.
0:02.2 OK, chaos. Ariza committed a hard foul on Fernandez going to the hoop, but seemed to get a decent amount of ball. However, Fernandez went down really hard, and Portland’s entire team ran over to get in Ariza’s face. It didn’t appear that any punches were thrown, but there was a great deal of pushing going on, particularly from Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw. We’ll have to see how this all sorts out …
… Ariza got a flagrant two foul, meaning he was ejected, and Fernandez remained on the ground for several minutes, though his body seemed to take most of the punishment. At least from the replay, it appears that the foul wasn’t that hard, but because of how hard Rudy landed, Ariza was a sitting duck for the refs. He was ejected, while Powell, Aldridge and Outlaw received offsetting technical fouls. Among those very concerned about Fernandez was his Spanish teammate and close friend Gasol.
After the whole mess, Portland took an 84-56 lead into the fourth as Fernandez left on a precautionary stretcher.
10:22 Not quite done yet? Instead of laying down for the final period, L.A. scored its first eight points, including five points from Bryant, to make it a 20-point game.
8:20 Mbenga’s ferocious put-back slam of a Farmar miss go the Lakers to within 17, which somehow seemed like a small lead.
7:47 As Bryant nails another triple to make it a 16-point game, L.A. had to be thinking about getting the lead to 10 by the five-minute mark or so. But Roy’s answer at the other end certainly didn’t help. Nonetheless, it was good for Lakers fans to finally see some Laker basketball.
5:35 Another Mbenga dunk in traffic made it a 17-point game, but Vujacic reached in as Roy attempted a three. Not the best outcome of that play, as he nailed all three free throws to get to 25 points, a game high.
3:37 Powell’s offensive board and converted jumper did nothing but cut Portland’s 102-77 lead by two in a game that ended a few minutes ago.
The game finished with the Blazers up 111-94, sending L.A. to its third-straight road loss heading into Houston and San Antonio.