*Updated via LakersMedia.com*
The Lakers hosted the Portland Trail Blazers in a Sunday night match-up between two potential first round opponents. The previous meeting was an overtime victory for the Lakers after Portland collapsed down the stretch. With a win tonight the Lakers would win the season series against Portland for the first time since 2004, but Portland was going to do their best to make sure that didn’t happen.
Los Angeles was without their starting center, Andrew Bynum, who was suspended following a flagrant foul committed Friday night against Michael Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Without Bynum the Lakers were going to have to look elsewhere for defensive intensity.
The game began with the Lakers utilizing their size advantage. Even without Andrew Bynum the Lakers were able to take advantage of their size and control the paint. Led by Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, Los Angeles pulled down multiple offensive rebounds that led to second chance points.
Another bright spot for the Lakers was Kobe Bryant, who started the game 3-4 from the field. Despite a sore neck, swollen ankle, and otherwise battered body, Bryant started the game hot and helped the Lakers jump out to a quick lead. At the end of the first quarter the Lakers led the Blazers 27-20.
Heading into the second quarter the Lakers knew that the lack of Andrew Bynum would begin to have an impact. Rookie Derrick Caracter saw his first significant stretch of playing time in several months, and the Blazers began to crawl back into the game. Led by Nicolas Batum, who scored 13 of the first 33 Portland points, the Blazers tied the game up at 35.
The second half of the quarter saw a swift shift of momentum as the Trail Blazers managed to storm back and grab their first lead of the game. After Kobe Bryant sank a three-point shot to put the Lakers up six, the Blazers went on a 10-0 run to close the half. Led by Nicolas Batum, Portland hit several big shots at the end of the quarter to give the Blazers a 48-44 halftime lead.
Portland opened the quarter strong, and continued their run from the end of the first half. The Blazers had increased their lead to nine before Los Angeles was finally able to get on the board. The Lakers ultimately did score, and cut into the Portland lead following consecutive buckets from Lamar Odom. However, the Lakers continued their ice cold shooting throughout much of the third quarter. Poor offensive execution from Portland allowed the Lakers to stay in the game.
Every time the Lakers got close Portland managed to hit a big shot to increase their lead. Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge led the Trail Blazers assault, and had Portland up 66-59 with just seconds left. However, Los Angeles managed to gain a little momentum after Matt Barnes hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to cut lead Portland lead to four heading into the fourth.
Los Angeles was looking to carry their momentum from the end of the third into the fourth. However, Portland maintained their momentum and were able to keep their lead at a comfortable margin. The Blazers used a zone defense that gave Los Angeles fits. The Lakers forced too many outside shots, and they suffered as a result. Once they finally began to attack the basket they crawled back into the game.
On a reverse lay-up late in the quarter Bryant managed to bring the Lakers within a pair. However, on the play the Blazers lost Marcus Camby to an ankle injury that forced him to lead the game. Without Camby’s inside presence the Lakers began to attack the paint. The Lakers took the lead on several fast-break attempts and had control of the game with a minute left.
After a Ron Artest technical with 43 seconds left in the game the Lakers had a three point lead. However, a vintage Kobe Bryant fadeaway put the Lakers up by five and all but secured a Lakers victory. Another clutch jump shot from Fisher locked up the win for the Lakers, 84-80.