Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest at Portland, the Lakers looking to halt a three-game losing streak, 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, Gasol and Bynum
Blazers: A. Miller, W. Matthews, N. Batum, G. Wallace, L. Aldridge
10:00 A 3-for-3 opening for the Lakers was similar to the team’s start in Golden State, and it came despite not exploiting one of the biggest matchup advantages we’ve seen all year, with Nic Batum guarding Gasol. Instead, Bryant and Fisher hit jumpers, and Fish found Bynum for a one-handed alley-oop in which Bynum seemed to keep going up and up.
5:00 L.A. controlled the early minutes, but Portland’s small ball started to work as the quarter went on, with three of their six field goals coming on transition layups. The Blazers were also running a lot of actions to get Gasol isolated on the perimeter against the smaller, quicker Gerald Wallace or Nic Batum, while L.A. had only found the Spaniard once before his tip in put L.A. up 14-13.
0:00 A potential buzzer-beating jumper from Blazer sub Patty Mills was waived off, meaning Gasol’s put-back layup was the final bucket of a 21-all period. L.A.’s main problem: Portland added a few more layups to reach 10 fastbreak points.
9:51 A quiet 3:38 in the first quarter from Lamar Odom turned quickly in the second, as he scored twice at the rim, hit 1-of-2 free throws, grabbed three boards and blocked a shot while putting L.A. up 29-24. Even more notably, Phil Jackson started Gasol with the subs instead of Bynum, which hasn’t been the case for a while. L.A.’s coaches hadn’t been happy with how the second unit was playing offensively, and Gasol appeared to be the easy answer.
3:03 The next rotation experiment included Bryant and Bynum’s re-entrance, and the pairing didn’t work too well as the second continued. Portland hit four triples, climbed up to 16 fastbreak points and went on a 10-0 run that produced a 45-33 lead before Bryant’s baseline dunk. Kobe had been short on his jumper (2-for-6), but more than anything else, Portland was treating it like a playoff game and L.A. was not. We’ve seen that several times before in Oregon, of course.
0:00 With everything going wrong, Bryant began to absolutely bomb away from three-point range, dropping four consecutive triples to suddenly reach 18 points and bring L.A. within six at the half. He had been short on his early attempts before being perfect from 24-28 feet.
9:26 Whether or not the Lakers made some simple corrections that could have helped (getting back in transition, rotating on D, moving the ball and establishing position inside), the energy just wasn’t there. The Spurs had clinched the top spot out West, of course, but L.A. was up just one game in the loss column on Boston and Miami, and two on the Mavericks.
5:38 The wheels came off almost entirely in the third, L.A. making only 1-of-11 field goals while watching the Blazers throw down alley-oop dunks at the other end, a 72-50 lead resulting from Portland’s 19-3 start to the half. Portland was playing to avoid the Lakers in the first round by getting up to the sixth seed, currently held by New Orleans (who has the tiebreaker over the Blaze).
0:00 Finally, the energy tables turned, with L.A.’s Blake, Brown, Barnes and Odom sparking a 12-0 run to close the third, cutting Portland’s 24-point lead in half. Portland missed nine straight shots, and the Lakers scored in transition at the other end … or, basically, the inverse of the second quarter. Alas, 74-62, L.A. back in the battle.
6:23 Gasol got clocked on the head by Roy, and Artest knocked around on a put-back attempt, but physical play had been allowed in the paint all night, with no calls being made … much to Gasol’s displeasure. Artest, meanwhile, was really getting into it with Gerald Wallace, mutual physical play resulting in matching technical fouls, and Bryant added a tech himself, though one almost sure to be rescinded as he was simply throwing the ball back to the official. Ref Violet Palmer thought he was throwing it at a Blazer.
5:11 Oh yeah … there was still a game going on, and L.A.’s group of mostly starters was still really struggling to score. Just five points in the period even after Odom’s three-pointer, L.A. trailing 82-67.
3:44 Wallace reacted to the chest-bumping with Artest by missing his next four shots, while Artest hit back-to-back threes to cut Portland’s lead under 10 for the first time in the half at 82-73. They’d get as close as seven on Bryant’s footwork-created bucket near the hoop, but a Batum three with 1:47 left was the dagger, restoring the lead to 10. L.A., just begging for the playoffs to start, would lose a fourth straight game. Your numbers:
9 Blazers turnovers in a well-controlled game for the home team until the fourth quarter, when they committed five of those T.O.’s.
12 Points scored by Kobe Bryant in a two-minute stretch of the second quarter, all on three-pointers. He scored 12 points total during his other 20 minutes of playing time.
13 Rebounds for Pau Gasol, with a stomach-virus ridden Andrew Bynum managing just six in his 32 minutes. Bynum had grabbed 23 and 17 in L.A.’s last two games.
20 Fastbreak points scored by the Blazers, L.A. failing to get back in transition repeatedly.
29 Shooting percentage for the Lakers in a second half in which they scored just 36 points.