Since Friday night’s win against Minnesota, nearly every member of the Lakers traveling crew told me how tough it was for L.A. to play in Portland.
Mychal Thompson (who played for the Blazers for seven years and the Lakers for four and a half) told me. Stu Lantz told me. Joel Meyers, Spero Dedes, John Ireland and PR man Josh Rupprecht told me.
Still unconvinced, I felt like two light games against Memphis and Minnesota in a week would do L.A.’s legs some good, and they’d be eager to show that the six-game losing streak in the Rose Garden (since Feb. 2005) shouldn’t reflect on them.
Um, upon further consideration … After watching 48 minutes of basketball … Let me just write a quick letter.
To: Mychal, Stu, Joel, Spero, John and Josh
Subject: Point conceded
Body: See subject
L.A. simply didn’t match Portland’s energy. In fact, they didn’t really come anywhere near that level of amplitude.
Before this game, the Lakers had trailed by no more than 20 points throughout the entire season, and not once since Nov. 14th (Detroit). But at halftime, they were already down 23 after being outscored 61-38 (Travis Outlaw scored 17 alone in the second), and would trail by as many as 30 in a wild third quarter that closed on an even more sour note (if that were possible).
With 2.2 seconds remaining in the period, Rudy Fernandez broke away to attempt a dunk with Trevor Ariza attempted to block it. Ariza got a piece of the ball, but also hit an off-balance Fernandez’s head. Fernandez landed extremely hard on his side, which almost immediately had Portland’s other four players charging towards Ariza. Ultimately, no punches were thrown, but Ariza was hit with a flagrant two foul and ejected, while two Blazers and Josh Powell also received technical fouls.
As if the rivalry needed any more juice …
L.A. headed into the fourth quarter down (a ridiculous) 28 points, but seemed to finally wake up after the Ariza incident, opening the period on a 17-5 run to cut the lead to 16 at 89-73 on a Kobe Bryant triple.
That was as close as the Lakers would get. L.A. ultimately fell by 17 to a team on an absolute mission as no player that wasn’t named Kobe or Pau hit double figures until Jordan Farmar’s last-minute three pointer.
Portland’s bench outscored the entire Lakers team 39-38 in the first half, thanks in part to 17 points from sub Outlaw, and got 18 rebounds and 12 points in a tough low-post effort from starting center Joel Pryzbilla as a rabid crowd kept the pedal pushed to the floor throughout.
Portland’s basket seemed to be six feet wide while L.A.’s seemed to have a person lying across its own, as the Lakers struggled immensely from the field (35.6 percent through three) before heating up considerably in the fourth to finish at 43 percent.
The result was L.A.’s third-straight loss on the road, and it’s not getting easier this week with the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs waiting in Texas.
Until then, a few numbers:
Spaniards participating in the game, including Pau Gasol and Portland’s Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez. When Fernandez went down, his close friend Gasol was very outwardly concerned.
Combined points from Luke Walton (2), Lamar Odom (7) and Derek Fisher (5).
Offensive boards for Portland, including seven from Joel Pryzbilla.
Points from Brandon Roy to lead the Blazers, who had five players in double figures.
Free throws attempted by Portland, to 16 by the Lakers.
L.A.’s field goal percentage through three quarters on 21-of-59 field goals, with only 10 assists to that point. Walton had three of those dimes, with not one other player amassing more than one.