If L.A. was looking to test its mettle in a playoff atmosphere just a week before the second season was set to start, the Rose Garden in Portland was certainly the place to be.
For the Blazers, home court advantage in the playoffs was on the line after San Antonio managed to beat the Utah Jazz, while the Lakers were hoping to keep pace with Cleveland – who beat Philadelphia – for the league’s top record.
That, and Portland’s fans love beating L.A. more than they like babies and ice cream. Sure enough, the red- and black-clad fans had already chanted “Beat L.A.” for five minutes before the game started to work themselves into a relative fervor. When the ball finally tipped, the back-to-back weary Lakers scratched and clawed their way to a four-point halftime lead that turned into a four-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
The game was appropriately decided late in the fourth, with Kobe Bryant and Brandon Roy taking their best shots at each other’s teams, each All Star making tough shots and getting to the line as the scoreboard fluctuated accordingly. Sure enough, Roy and Bryant were terrific leading into the final two minutes, but it was unlikely hero Steve Blake down the stretch that ultimately sent Portland to a victory.
The Trail Blazers’ point guard hit a pull-up jumper to put Portland up three with 1:56 remaining and hit 1-of-2 free throws after Bryant missed a three, then stole Bryant’s kick out pass to Odom for a potential game-tying three with just over 30 seconds remaining. The Blazers then shut the door at the foul line as the Lakers continued to miss jumpers, and earned their eighth consecutive victory in Oregon over the Lakers.
Bryant needed 24 shots to get to his 32 points, while Lamar Odom was terrific off the bench with 17 points, 10 boards and three assists. Andrew Bynum managed to play a full 30:59, looking great at times and sluggish at others to finish with 13 points and six boards, while Pau Gasol took only nine shots en route to 12 points.
Portland was led by Roy’s 24 points and 16 each from Blake and Aldridge, plus 15 off the bench from Fernandez.
L.A. dropped to two games in the loss column behind the Cavs for the league’s top record, but now returns to STAPLES for its final two regular season games and the opening two contests of the first round.
Quarters during which Portland’s wireless internet was available. In related news, the game is four quarters long.
Shots hit by Shannon Brown in four attempts off the bench, including two threes, for 10 points. He added two boards and an assist without a turnover in nearly 20 minutes.
Consecutive road losses for L.A. at Portland.
Personals called on the Blazers.
Personal fouls called on the Lakers.