Monthly Archive for February, 2013

Lakers 116, Wolves 94: Feb. 28 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening home contest against Minnesota, 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, Clark and Howard
Wolves: R. Rubio, L. Ridnour, D. Cunningham, D. Williams, N. Pekovic

12:00 The longest current winning streak for one team over another in the NBA belongs to the Lakers, who have won 20 straight over the Wolves, but that meant little to Mike D’Antoni. Clearly, his team has little room for error, and needs to capitalize on the rare occasion from last night in which all three Western teams ahead of L.A. in the standings (Houston, Utah and Golden State) all lost.

4:07 Now to the action: L.A. jumped out to a 16-6 early lead behind some good all-around play, before allowing a 7-0 run that cut the lead to three halfway through the period. Kobe Bryant snapped the run with a layup off Steve Nash’s feed, however, after the veteran point guard had scored seven early points by hitting three of his first four shots. By quarter’s end, L.A. had the lead back up to six at 28-22, Bryant scoring the final four points of the period to reach 11 with his three assists. Meanwhile, Nikola Pekovic was being worked on in the Wolves locker room after tweaking his back, and was questionable to return.

6:45 L.A. pushed its lead to nine, but then watched J.J. Barea climb quickly to 11 points off Minny’s bench, getting the Wolves within three points, before Steve Blake sank his second straight triple to make it 39-33 for the home team. Pekovic, by the way, was diagnosed with an abdominal strain and would not return … the Wolves are just about the only team with worse injury struggles this season than the Lakers.

0:00 The lead grew back to double figures at the break, behind a late scoring burst from Kobe, up to 22 points on 9 of 15 field goals, plus three assists and four boards. Blake continued his terrific play off the bench and was rewarded with extra minutes, amassing four assists that should have been five when Howard threw down an alley-oop but touched the ball when it was over the cylinder.

10:20 Kobe was in serious Black Mamba mode, draining consecutive deep triples against a Wolves zone D to push the lead to 14 points, reaching 28 himself on 11 of 17 field goals. In the last three games plus his first half, Kobe was shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.

5:09 Bryant stayed red hot, nailing his fourth triple to reach 31 points, though Minnesota cut the lead to eight behind Ricky Rubio’s 11 points, 11 assists and six boards, shooting 50 percent in the game (Luke Ridnour 5 of 5) to stay alive. Moments later, Antawn Jamison helped push the lead up to 16, converting two and-1′s at the rim, and ultimately putting back Earl Clark’s miss after missing the first and-1 free throw for seven of his 12 points in 13 minutes.

0:00 L.A. couldn’t hit a free throw (47.1 percent), but it didn’t matter, because they were drilling three after three, climbing up to 15 in 27 attempts as Meeks nailed back-to-back late in the period, Blake drained his third and Bryant his trio early in the period. That helped produce a 91-75 lead heading into the final quarter, the Lakers looking to pull within two games of 8th place Houston.

7:13 Blake continued his terrific night, climbing up to six assists on an alley-oop to Howard, to compliment his season-highs in points (13) and boards (seven) with the Lakers up 104-83 thanks to a 13-8 to the fourth quarter. Bryant and Nash would likely be able to ice their knees very soon…

4:13 The bench was emptied for the final five minutes – for the most part, at least, as Devin Ebanks was the only reserve not in. Jamison stayed on, and reached 17 points with his eight boards, as L.A. led by 23.

0:00 And so it went, the final score of 116-94 reflecting a consistent, wire-to-wire effort for the Lakers, who move to within one game of .500 and two games of the playoffs. Bryant finished with 33 points in his three quarters on 13 of 22 field goals, Howard had an 11-point, 13-board double-double (with four blocks), and the bench finished with a combined 52 points alongside 23 boards with 11 assists, keying the effort throughout the evening. Up next is Atlanta on Sunday; we’ll see you there.

Injury Update: Pau Gasol

From the Lakers PR department:

Pau saw Dr. Yoon yesterday and had an ultrasound test done. His healing process is coming along, and he has been cleared to work out on the Precor machine.

Gasol originally suffered a tear of the plantar fascia in a win at Brooklyn on Feb. 5, and the team announced he’d be out approximately six to eight weeks.

On his @paugasol Twitter account, Gasol relayed this message on Tuesday:

LAL: 20 Straight Over Minnesota

The last time the Lakers lost to Minnesota came during the 2006-07 season, Kevin Garnett’s last in Minnesota, with the following starting line up for L.A. in a 117-107 double overtime loss:

PG: Smush Parker (24 points, 4 steals)
SG: Kobe Bryant (40 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists)
SF: Maurice Evans (7 rebounds, 4 steals)
PF: Brian Cook (14 points, 8 boards)
C: Andrew Bynum (10 points, 6 boards)

KG went for 26 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Wolves, long before the days of Ricky Rubio and (currently injured) Kevin Love. The last time Minnesota beat the Lakers in Los Angeles? Dec. 2, 2005, when KG had 29 and eight in a 113-108 contest, Kobe just missing a triple-double with 20 points, nine boards and eight assists, and Lamar Odom right there with him with 24 points, eight assists and seven boards.

Bryant is, of course, the lone holdover from those days, and the one constant as the Lakers have reeled off 20 consecutive victories since that loss in 2007, the longest winning streak for one team against another in the NBA.

Instead of Parker and Bynum, Kobe is now flanked by Steve Nash and Dwight Howard as Pau Gasol continues to recover from a tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot. Bryant has been brilliant in leading the Lakers to 11 wins in 16 games, including three straight out of the All-Star break before a stumble on the tail end of a back-to-back at Denver on Monday night. They’re within striking distance of the playoffs, as a result, but have plenty of work left to do.

With 24 games remaining and a 28-30 record, L.A. have little to no room for error as they try to close gaps of 3.0 games on Houston (31-27), 3.5 on Utah (31-26) and 5.0 on Golden State (33-24). Home games against sub .500 teams like Minnesota (20-34) must be turned into W’s.

Mike D’Antoni acknowledged as much, and allowed that he’ll do some scoreboard watching particularly since the Lakers are playing better … even if he prefers that his players keep a more direct focus.

“They can let me do (keep track of the standings),” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “We just need to play and win games. They’re doing a good job of focusing.”

Both Bryant and Nash backed up that sentiment, saying they pay little attention to the standings, spending more time focusing on their own games and matchups with opponents on given game nights.

All three Western teams above the Lakers in the standings play on Wednesday night, with Utah hosting Atlanta, Houston hosting Milwaukee and the Warriors at New York. Of those three Western opponents, the Lakers have two games remaining against the Warriors and one against Houston, while they’re done with Utah.

Of course, if the Lakers don’t take care of their own business, starting with the Wolves, how those other teams do won’t matter.

Lakers – Nuggets Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 119-108 loss at Denver:

Paint points for Denver, with 26 of their first 35 points coming inside. The Nuggets, who lead the league in points in the paint (nearly 57 per game), held a plus-28 advantage in this category. It was also the second time this year they had scored 78 inside the key, the other time occurring on Dec. 22 vs. Charlotte.

Free-throw percentage for the Lakers, most of their misses coming way of Dwight Howard, who finished 3 of 14 from the charity stripe. Howard made his first two of the game, but then hit 1 of his last 12. “You can’t go 14 of 31 on the road against a good team,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Fastbreak points for the Nuggets, most of them coming off the L.A.’s 15 turnovers (eight in the second quarter alone). Denver scored 22 in transition during the first two quarters to take a 13-point lead into halftime. “They just continually pushed the ball,” Kobe Bryant said. “Their shots go up and guys are already leaking out to go along with the speed so they got a lot of easy buckets.”

Home wins for Denver to just three losses after the win, which ties Miami for the best mark in the league. The Nuggets also improved to 14-0 when scoring 110-plus points at the Pepsi Center.

Points from Wilson Chandler, who started in place of Danilo Gallinari (a late scratch with a thigh bruise). Chandler, who has missed most of the year due to injuries, shot 10 of 18 from the floor, including 3 of 5 from the 3-point line. He had 16 in the second half – nine in the fourth quarter – to help Denver put away the Lakers down the stretch.

Shots missed for Bryant in the second half (7 for 10 towards 19 points). In the last three second halves (vs. Portland, at Dallas, at Denver), he is shooting 26 for 35 (74.3 percent) from the floor. In total, Bryant finished with 29 points, nine assists and six boards.

Lakers 108, Nuggets 119: Feb. 25 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Monday night contest at Denver, 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, Clark and Howard
Nuggets: T. Lawson, A. Iguodala, W. Chandler*, K. Faried and K. Koufos
*Chandler was starting in place of Danilo Gallinari, scratched late with a thigh injury.

5:33 The game was pretty evenly matched in the opening minutes, with Denver leading 17-16 after Dwight Howard hit his first two free throws, as every Lakers starter had at least two points. In off the bench came Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks, the former getting an immediate steal and the latter a corner three to give the Lakers the lead, continuing what’s been excellent bench play of late.

2:44 L.A. drained three consecutive triples as Meeks added another, but found themselves tied at 25 when the Nuggets threw their third alley-oop of the period, JaVale McGee throwing this one down, to give them 18 points in the paint. Steve Blake added the fourth three from the bench, but Denver continued to score at will in the paint, amassing 26 paint points to take a 35-29 lead out of the quarter.

10:14 Denver continued to run all over the place, turning consecutive Metta World Peace turnovers into layups, their 6-0 run (22-6 going back to the first quarter) allowing a 43-31 lead into a Lakers time out. The lead grew to 14 moments later, but L.A. responded with a 6-0 spurt – two buckets by Earl Clark – to cut it back to eight as Howard returned from the bench (he was a +2 in his nine first quarter minutes).

6:00 After hitting his first two foul shots, Howard missed three of four amidst another run from Denver that pushed the lead to 15 halfway through the period. The Lakers knew they had to take care of the ball and get back on D as keys to everything, but did neither: Denver had 16 fast break points already, and L.A. had eight turnovers to only two from the home team.

1:10 Broken record alert: Nash turned it over for the fifth time, many trying to get the ball to Howard in screen/roll action, and Denver converted a layup on the other end. Bryant found his way on offense to get the Lakers within eight nonetheless, but the Nuggets kept scoring, reaching 67 points to take a 13-point lead into halftime. To be down by 13 points while shooting 60 percent from the field seems ridiculous, but the 12 turnovers and complete lack of paint protection said a lot about it.

4:31 A Nash technical foul shot (defensive three seconds), then fading jump shot was erased by a corner three from Corey Brewer on Andre Iguodala’s 10th assist, and Iggy followed with a transition dunk on the next play to make it a 91-73 Nuggets lead, this one about over. Denver could not have been more excited to beat the Lakers, with George Karl saying this pregame: “I don’t think there is any question that we are human beings and the Lakers are the greatest NBA basketball team in our lifetimes and they have great players. I think it is pretty easy to get motivated for this game; I had butterflies early.” His players still played like that were the case.

0:00 Howard’s third block of the game on D resulted in two free throws from Bryant on the other end, cutting the margin to 95-83, but the Lakers had quite a bit of work to do, trailing by double digits in the altitude on the second end of a back-to-back.

9:39 L.A.’s second unit was getting stops, and thus the visitors had a chance to cut the lead to as few as seven, but Howard missed two more free throws (1 for 10 after making his first two) and was blocked at the rim. Jamison was also blocked at the rim, and both swats led to fast break buckets on the other end, the continued story of the game. So instead of 98-91, it was 102-89.

5:16 L.A. was quickly within seven, the closest they’d been since early in the first half, behind consecutive hoops from Bryant, up to 27 points (16 in the second half on 6 of 8 field goals). But the Nuggets kept coming, getting a late dagger three from Chandler (23 points, making L.A. wish Gallinari played, perhaps) to ultimately take a 119-108 win. It’s the first Lakers loss since the All-Star break, dropping them back to two games below .500. Kobe had 29 in the loss, and Howard 15 points, 14 boards and four blocks, though his 3 of 14 free throw shooting hurt. Up next is Minnesota on Thursday; we’ll see you there.

Lakers – Mavericks Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 103-99 win at Dallas:

Career points for Kobe Bryant, after putting up 38 (13 of 21 field goals), to go along with 12 rebounds and seven assists. He became the youngest member of the 31,000 point club that includes Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan. Bryant scored 14 in the fourth quarter alone – 22 in the second half – on 5 of 5 shooting, while matching the Mavs nearly shot for shot during a back-and-forth affair. In the last two games, he is averaging 39.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists on 63.6 percent field goals.

Field-goal percentage for Dallas in the second half. Outside of Dirk Nowtizki’s 14 points on 6 for 11 field goals, the rest of the team was just 13 for 37. The Mavs managed to hang around in large part because of eight offensive rebounds towards 11 second-chance points in the final two quarters (16 overall).

Points for Steve Nash, a season-high. This came one game after recording just four points on 2 for 11 field goals. Nash had 13 in the second half, including three triples, the biggest one coming with 1:44 remaining to put L.A. up 99-95. As a team, the Lakers made 13 of 25 from beyond the arc, a 52 percent clip.

Plus-rating for Jodie Meeks, second highest on the team behind Dwight Howard’s plus-15. Meeks finished with 11 points, eight of those coming in the second quarter to help L.A. tie the game at 54 apiece at halftime. His final points – coming on his second 3-pointer near the end of the third – extended the Lakers lead to 79-75 going to the fourth. Overall, the bench unit of Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake and Meeks combined for 29 points.

Games the Lakers trail Houston for the final playoff spot in the West. L.A. has won three in a row out of the All-Star break and 11 of their last 15 to put their record at 28-29. They are 9-4 since Blake returned from abdominal surgery on Jan. 29 vs. New Orleans.

Lakers 103, Mavs 99: Feb. 24 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon contest 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: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Mavericks: D. Collison, O.J. Mayo, S. Marion, D. Nowitzki, B. James

5:54 L.A. came out strong in the first few minutes, building a 7-2 lead as Dwight Howard and Steve Nash scored at the rim, and Kobe Bryant drained a triple, but the Mavs controlled things from that point forward, using a 13-5 run to take a 15-12 lead into the first Mike D’Antoni time out. Part of L.A.’s problem was at the rim, Shawn Marion taking advantage of two early fouls that sidelined Howard. Meanwhile, Bryant picked up his 13th technical foul of the season, which leads the NBA. Guys have to sit out a game upon reaching 16 T’s.

1:00 Antawn Jamison has been terrific on offense for the Lakers in the past few weeks, and was already up to nine points in seven first quarter minutes after hitting his second three-pointer. That one pulled the Lakers to within one after they’d failed to clear a defensive board with four guys back, resulting in an open triple for Dirk Nowitzki, his second make of the period. The Mavs added another bucket in the final minute to take a 30-27 lead.

8:39 After hitting a corner three, Steve Blake added a free throw line jumper to put L.A. up 40-34, capping a 13-4 start to the second for L.A.’s bench unit. Jodie Meeks was excellent as well, scoring the first eight points behind a corner three plus five free throws; he also made two key defensive plays, including one in transition. Bryant returned at the 5:10 mark, but Howard had to sit after picking up his third foul, as Vince Carter drew a body bump in the paint and hit two free throws to tie the game at 43.

4:07 But one thing L.A. had working was its three-point stroke, as Bryant rose to drain his third (second in O.J. Mayo’s face without a dribble) and Nash followed from the corner to cap a quick 6-0 run. Dallas responded with four straight points before Bryant hit two bonus free throws and Jamison scored at the rim to make it 53-47. Jamison had 11 off the pine, and Kobe 15 total a game after posting 40 points in the win over Portland. Bryant also led the way with six assists, and five boards.

0:00 Kobe missed his final three shots of the period, all in isolation, as the Mavs got consecutive buckets from sub Brandan Wright to pull even at 54 heading into halftime. L.A. led by as many as six on a few occasions, but had to last with Howard playing only 11 minutes due to foul trouble. Considering that fact, a tie at the break wasn’t too shabby for the road team, certainly in need of a victory to pick up a game on Houston and Utah, both of whom lost on Saturday night.

7:51 The first few minutes of the third featured a 5-0 Mavs run with L.A. being lazy on D, but then an 11-3 response from the Lakers, featuring five straight points from Nash. Meanwhile, Bryant not only had 20 points, but was on triple-double watch with six boards and six dimes, the Lakers holding a 67-62 lead.

0:00 Again keying things was the bench trio of Blake, Meeks and Jamison, who helped the Lakers to a 79-75 lead after the starters had given up the lead moments earlier. World Peace (0 for 4 field goals) and Earl Clark (back-to-back turnovers) were hurting the offensive flow, but that changed when the subs came in. Meeks was up to 11 points and Jamison 13, helping Bryant (24) handle the scoring load.

8:30 Seconds after checking in, Kobe rose for a tough three in Jae Crowder’s face, then nailed a fading jumper on the next trip down to put the Lakers back on top after the players starting the fourth allowed a 7-1 run to the Mavs. Howard had missed all but one of four free throws, and the only shot he got off in the paint came off the rim.

2:31 A big shot from Kobe had him up to 35 points, but O.J. Mayo – who had really struggled all day – answered with a three to pull the Mavs within a point with two minutes to play. Since checking in at the 9:05 mark, Bryant had drained all four of his long jump shots, including his fourth three-pointer in five attempts, which kept L.A. afloat. It was Bryant’s seventh assist that found Nash, rising to match Bryant with a fourth triple of his own, putting the Lakers up four with 1:44 remaining, a huge shot for the visitors. Nash had a season-high 20 points, all needed.

0:04.5 After a 3-point miss from World Peace, Nowitzki scored inside plus the foul – missing the free throw – and the Lakers took possession as the clock ticked below a minute, up two. Who else but Bryant rose for yet another dagger jumper (5 for 5 in the quarter), getting Carter to bite on a pump fake before draining his shot, to put the Lakers up 101-97 with 46 seconds remaining. Dirk, however, was game: he made his second straight hoop to keep it at two, with 26.3 remaining.

World Peace went to the foul line with 16.8 seconds left, and after missing all six of his shots from the field, rimmed out on his first attempt. But he did make the second, and then provided terrific D in Dirk’s face on the other end, forcing the German to give it up, and O.J. Mayo (2 of 9 from the field) to hoist a three that wasn’t close with 4.9 seconds left. Bryant grabbed the board, hit 1 of 2 free throws, and the game was over. Kobe finished with 38 points a game after dropping 40 on Portland, plus 12 rebounds (second to only Howard’s 13) and seven assists on 13 of 21 field goals. His play, with help from Nash on offense and Howard and MWP on D, led the Lakers to a 3-0 start out of the All-Star break that pulls the team to within one game of .500, and 2.5 games of 8th place Houston (31-27). Up next is a tricky back-to-back at Denver on Monday night; we’ll see you there.

Saturday Practice Report

On a night when Steve Nash struggled to find his shooting touch, finishing just 2 for 11 from the field, Kobe Bryant carried the Lakers out of halftime, scoring 18 of the team’s 27 third-quarter points.

Bryant recorded 29 of his game-high 40 points in the second half alone, converting on 10 of 14 field goals, while also hitting all nine of his free throws in leading the Lakers to a 111-107 victory over Portland.

“I had to be a little bit more assertive,” Bryant said postgame, “but at the same time make plays for my teammates.”

It was the 117th time he’s hit the 40-point mark in his career, and Bryant also finished with his most efficient shooting night on the year when attempting at least 20 field goals.

“We needed him to score,” Nash acknowledged. “We were getting great shots, I was getting great looks, but obviously, I couldn’t knock something down tonight.”

For good measure, Bryant also hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter, just the second triple he’s made in the entire month of February, while also breaking out of a 1 for 34 slump from deep in the prior 15 contests. In his postgame walk off interview on Time Warner Cable SportsNet with’s Mike Trudell, Bryant suggested that shooting slump from three was very much over.

Alas, while Bryant recorded his highest scoring output since Dec. 26 at Denver, the Lakers bench also stepped up with Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks combining for 26 points.

Steve Blake, who returned to the lineup nearly a month ago, missed all three of his field goal attempts, but he made plays for teammates, and his impact was felt the defensive side of the ball. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni elected to go small in the fourth quarter, pairing Nash and Blake in the backcourt, while using the Maryland product to guard Portland’s floor general and Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard.

“I thought Steve Blake turned the game around with his defense,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a pesky little guy. He didn’t play great offensively because he didn’t make a couple shots, but other than that, he turned the game around. That’s what we need from the bench. Somehow, you have to find a way to contribute to a win and they do that.”

Since Blake’s return from abdominal surgery, L.A. is 8-4, while all three bench players have found a rhythm on the court. Jamison is averaging 13.0 points and 5.3 rebounds, Meeks is shooting 40.9 from the 3-point line, while Blake has provided stability both on offense and defense.

“I’m real happy,” D’Antoni said of the bench’s play. “Antawn, Jodie and Steve have been contributing a lot.”

To sustain this type of play on the road, though, will be a test for the Lakers, who currently own a 9-18 record away from STAPLES. They embark on a small two-game road trip through Dallas and Denver, a Sunday-Monday back-to-back. Fourteen of the next 26 games come on the road.

“That’s going to be the crux of what we do,” D’Antoni said post practice on Saturday. “The way we’re going to win is to play better defense than we did last night, although last night wasn’t bad. We weren’t gritty enough. On the road, you have to be gritty. We have to continue to play good defense, keep moving the ball and we’ll get open shots. Our Achilles heel is turnovers and transition defense. That comes from turnovers and not getting back. Those are two things we can control and if we do that, we’ll win.”

Lakers – Blazers Postgame Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from LAL’s 111-107 win against Portland:

Points for Kobe Bryant, the 117th time in his career he’s reached that mark. Bryant scored 29 in the second half (10 of 14 from the floor, 9 of 9 free throws), including 18 of the Lakers 27 points in the third quarter to help push L.A. past Portland. Also of note: Bryant nailed his first 3-pointer in three weeks, after entering the contest just 1 for 34 in his last 15 games.

Rebounds for Dwight Howard, to go along with 19 points. The big man had already recorded a double-double by halftime (15 points, 10 boards), but re-injured his right shoulder before halftime. Even so, he still finished the game, but of more importance, it was his second strong performance in a row. Postgame, Howard acknowledged the team’s overall energy directly correlates with his play. “It starts with me,” he said.

Lead changes in the fourth quarter alone – 27 in the game – with Steve Nash’s one-footed jumper in the lane putting the Lakers up for good with 1:44 left. Portland had three opportunities to tie the game or take the lead after that, but Damian Lillard missed a 3-pointer, Nicolas Batum was charged with a lost ball turnover after an official review and LaMarcus Aldridge missed a fadeaway jumper. Bryant then closed the game with four free throws.

Plus-rating for Antawn Jamison, who finished with 16 points and six boards on the night. In his last four games, he is averaging 16.8 points and 6.3 rebounds on 52.1 percent from the floor. “I know exactly what is needed of me, especially with the second unit,” Jamison said. “When I’m out there on the court, I’m just trying to make a difference, and just try to contribute as much as possible.”

Field goals for Nash, out of 11 attempts. None was bigger than his jumper in the lane that broke a 105-all tie with 1:44 remaining. Uncharacteristically, Nash also missed his only free-throw attempt off a Wesley Matthews technical foul. Postgame, though, he stated his back had been bothering him the entire game. “I tweaked my back in the first quarter, it just kept locking up and was tight the whole game,” he said. “At the end of the game, you just try to fight through and make a play.”

Lakers 111, Blazers 107: Feb. 22 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening home contest against Portland, 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, Clark and Howard
Blazers: D. Lillard, W. Matthews, N. Batum, L. Aldridge, J.J. Hickson

7:35 It was the Blazers with the quick start, hitting 3 of 4 shots to open a 7-2 lead, but the Lakers settled in from there, countering with seven makes in their first 10 attempts, including back-to-back triples from Kobe Bryant and Earl Clark that allowed a 16-12 lead. It was just the second three-pointer for Kobe in the last 15 games, an odd stat for sure, though one reason he’s hit so many fewer is he’s taking only 2.2 per game in February, compared to 5.5 in January and 6.9 in December.

4:33 Speaking of three-point shooting: Antawn Jamison drained his first attempt immediately after checking in, to join Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks at 40 percent or better in the 11 games since Blake returned from injury. Jamison entered the game at 39.4 percent, Meeks 41.5 percent and Blake 40.0 percent. Jamison added two free throws after his triple to put the Lakers up 24-23. By quarter’s end, L.A. held a 30-28 lead, with Kobe’s 11 points (5 of 9 field goals) and four Nash assists.

8:46 After missing badly on his first shot from three, Metta World Peace atoned with not only a block and a steal on D, but a make on his second attempt, putting L.A. up 37-32 as the second unit continued its strong play of late.

0:57.5 The building got quiet as Howard appeared to tweak the torn labrum in his right shoulder, with Blazers reserve Victor Claver hacking at him in the same motion that’s caused the previous problems for Howard. He last tweaked it at Phoenix in late January and subsequently missed three games, but he got up this time and stayed in the game, much to LAL’s relief. Portland, however, ended the half on a 9-2 run to take a 54-53 lead into halftime, L.A. hitting only 36.4 percent of its shots in the second quarter and relaxing a bit on defense.

5:00 It wasn’t a good start to the half from an energy standpoint for the Lakers, and Portland took advantage to lead by as many as six points amidst six LAL turnovers in the first six minutes of the period. Howard looked to be favoring the shoulder, missing four free throws and his only field goal attempt, while Nash continued an extremely rare poor shooting night by falling to just 1 of 9 on the evening. Bryant was keeping ‘em in it, though, reaching 24 points on 10 of 15 field goals as L.A. rallied to cut the margin to two at 73-71.

0:00 Bryant continued his fantastic individual quarter, making 7 of 8 shots to reach 29 points, 18 in the period alone, to get the Lakers within two after three despite continued strong offense from the Blazers, who got 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting from Batum and 13 points with seven assists from rookie Damian Lillard, holding the fort after Aldridge went out with four fouls midway through the period.

7:19 The offense was really clicking for the Lakers group of Blake-Meeks-MWP-Clark-Howard, with Meeks totaling six points, Howard converting a jump hook and MWP a driving layup to 95-92 lead early in the fourth, as Bryant and Nash got some extra rest. However, a quick 5-0 Blazers run capped by unheralded Will Barton’s and-1 gave Portland a 97-95 lead with 6:15 to play.

4:47 World Peace has struggled with his shot of late, but he made a fantastic individual play on D to get a steal, and converted a tough and-1 on the other end to put the Lakers up 100-99. Lillard scored on consecutive plays, but Kobe answered each, the second plus a foul, to reach 36 points on 15 of 21 shooting.

0:00 Nash, missing all but one of his first 10 shots, hit a big one with 1:44 to go to break a 105-all tie, and Bryant closed things out at the free throw line, sinking all four (9 of 9) to cap an impressive 15 of 23 shooting night towards 40 points, his fifth time this season hitting that mark, and first of 2013. The final was 111-107, L.A. getting a much-needed win heading into a two-game road trip. Howard had a 19-point, 16-board double-double while playing through shoulder pain, and Jamison and Meeks combined for 26 points off the pine. We’ll see you in Dallas on Sunday, folks.