Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Halloween contest at Portland’s Rose Garden, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Blazers: D. Lillard, W. Matthews, N. Batum, L. Aldridge, J.J. Hickson
6:00 The Lakers were humming on offense in the first six minutes, with Kobe Bryant throwing in a slam off Dwight Howard’s hand off, Pau Gasol working his way to eight points and Steve Nash running the show with three early dimes, helping produce a 17-15 lead. The D was a bit sketchy, but Howard showed off a signature play by flying in from the weak side to swat Damian Lillard at the rim after the Rookie of the Year candidate had worked his way around Nash.
0:00 The main culprit in L.A. trailing 30-26 after the first: eight turnovers. It’s been that simple throughout the preseason and into these first two games, the Lakers unable to take care of the ball and opponents taking advantage. The bright spot for L.A.: Gasol, who scored 10 points with three boards to keep it close.
9:18 The free throw line became a point of interest early in the second, with Howard nailing all four attempts to reach 9 of 12 in the game (75 percent, after 3 of 14 last night), and Ebanks fouling Nic Batum three times in about 10 seconds (literally) on the other end. Both teams would be spending time at the stripe to close the quarter.
6:40 L.A. found itself down by as many as nine in a hurry, but thanks to Howard’s continued resurgence at the line (11 of 14 makes) and back-to-back triples from Bryant and Metta World Peace, the lead was trimmed to one at 41-40 … at least for a minute, as Portland answered with the third Wes Matthews triple and a Batum fast break dunk off the 11th L.A. turnover. Like against Dallas in the second half last night, L.A. kept having to fight uphill.
0:00 All kinds of action to close the half, folks, as the teams traded three-pointers (Kobe hit three, MWP two) and Howard continued to impress by adding a dunk to all his FT’s. On the down side, Nash got tangled up with Lillard and had to head to the locker room. L.A. cut the lead to as few as one, but conceded yet another triple to Batum with seven seconds in the half, failing to get back in transition. That made it 62-57 Blazers at the break.
6:00 Nash started the second half with his left leg protected by a sleeve, but it was almost immediately obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to play. He was officially ruled out for the rest of the game with a “lower leg contusion.” L.A. reeled for a few minutes after Nash left, but his replacement, Steve Blake, nailed a corner three that preceded a pretty bucket from Howard (impressively up to 29 points on 8 of 12 field goals plus 13 of 16 free throws) to make it 79-76.
0:00 Then it all went badly wrong, quickly, for the Lakers, who were swarmed under a 13-0 run that allowed Portland a 92-76 lead after three. Sasha Pavlovic scored seven straight points, and Lillard was everywhere, reaching 16 points with nine assists, including a buzzer beating finish off glass in traffic. Nash was in the locker room, Howard had four fouls (along with 29 points, 10 boards and five assists) and L.A. was in big trouble towards an 0-2 start to the season.
8:04 Despite shooting nearly 50 percent and being up eight on the glass, the Lakers were down 18 points (103-85) after a technical foul on an unhappy Kobe, who’d expected a foul call. Bryant, who’d made 7 of his 13 shots, had seven of his team’s 22 turnovers, with World Peace adding six of his own. Portland had 28 points off those miscues.
5:00 L.A. was down by as many as 19, but not quite done, cutting the lead to 11 with more Kobe (26 points) and Howard (33). At least until a Batum triple, Portland’s ninth, made it 108-94 with 3:52 to go. Too big of a hole.
0:00 The final: Portland 116, Lakers 106. Howard finished with 33 points, 14 boards, five assists, a block and a steal; Bryant had 30 points and six boards; Gasol 16 points and nine boards, all three playing around 40 minutes on a back-to-back. Batum had 26, Lillard had 23 (added 11 dimes, too) and Matthews 22 for the Blazers. L.A. will fly home immediately after postgame interviews, and try to get ready for the Clippers on Friday. We’ll see you there.