LAL 103, POR 96: March 23 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Portland, the Lakers looking to bounce back from a rare home loss at Utah on Sunday and build on Friday’s win at Dallas, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Lakers: Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Blazers: R. Felton, W. Matthews, N. Batum, L. Aldridge, J. Pryzbilla

3:38 In his first start as a Laker, Ramon Sessions impressed much as he did in L.A.’s big win at Dallas on Friday, scoring seven early points on 3-of-4 shooting and clearing plenty of space for open shots around him, helping the home team make six of seven shots to start. He went to the bench with L.A. holding a six-point lead, Portland only so close since LaMarcus Aldridge had connected on three long-range jumpers.

0:00 Another benefit of having Sessions run the show is how much pressure it takes off Kobe to create offense; we had a good example here as Bryant had to do little work towards the five shots he took, and he made five for a game-high 11 points in the first. L.A. claimed a 30-19 lead, shooting 62 percent from the field despite two wide open layup misses in the final minute.

6:58 The bench kept a good effort going, as a Barnes put-back layup made it a 42-30 margin, while Bynum continued to score inside while notching his sixth field goal at the rim.

6:00 We got a pretty good idea of the rotation Mike Brown’s looking to use now that Sessions is in the starting line up. He re-entered near the six minute mark, with Bryant, Gasol and Troy Murphy joining him. Blake went to the bench having played 10 minutes primarily with McRoberts, Barnes, Bynum and World Peace, with Andrew Goudelock staying on the bench. Brown said before the game that he wants to figure out his playoff rotation, so it’s going to be seven regulars (Sessions, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol, Bynum, Barnes and Blake) with McRoberts and Murphy splitting time as back up bigs.

0:40.2 Despite all L.A.’s strong early play at the offensive end, Aldridge caught fire from really all over the court, hitting 10-of-12 shots to reach 21 points, and pull the Blazers as close to a point away. World Peace, however, drained a three to piggy-back an earlier hammer dunk through traffic, and Gasol hit consecutive jumpers to push the lead back to five.

7:41 A stat that bodes well for L.A.’s offense moving forward: they had 20 assists on 26 field goals. Gasol led the way with five, while Bynum, Gasol, Barnes and Sessions had three apiece, the ball movement impressive. Offense was so easy, however, that L.A.’s defense wasn’t as strong as its coaches would prefer, and Portland went on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 61.

2:55 The five-point lead was regained through more Bynum scoring (20 points) and on the second Sessions-to-Peace three-pointer of the game. Barnes and Blake joined McRoberts, Bryant and Gasol to close out the quarter, looking to put a pesky bunch of Blazers away.

0:00 After three, L.A.’s once 12-point lead was cut to only one, the Blazers refusing to go away as the home team seemed somewhat confused it wasn’t up big, such was the ease with which they were getting open shots. Nonetheless, they’d need another strong fourth quarter with the next look at the future rotation: Sessions, Blake, Barnes, McRoberts and Bynum starting the fourth quarter.

7:00 Bynum scored six of L.A.’s 11 points to open the fourth, Barnes added a corner three and Sessions twice got to the rim before converting his seventh free throws in nine attempts, providing a solid line of 17 points, six assists and five boards to keep L.A. up 85-81.

2:00 Sessions continued an impressive fourth quarter by nailing a three, then finding a cutting Barnes for a layup that put the Lakers up 95-89, countering the third and fourth Blazers threes of the final quarter that kept them in the game. Gasol was handling the glass (16 boards) and all five starters were in double figures.

0:00 World Peace and Gasol converted the 10th and 11th Sessions assists in the final minutes, keeping L.A. comfortably in the lead as home win number 20 made the Purple and Gold 30-18 overall. Sessions finished his first start as a Laker with 20 points, 11 assists and six rebounds, while Bynum added 28 points and nine rebounds and Gasol 16 boards, six assists and two blocks with his 10 points. Kobe was quiet, scoring 14 on 5-of-17 field goals, but L.A. more than made up for it with terrific ball movement, notching a season-high 33 assists on 40 field goals. Up next, another home game on Sunday, this time against Memphis; we’ll see you there.