The Los Angeles Lakers headed back to Staples Center after taking care of business in Dallas by beating the defending champions. The Lakers had an overall great game and beating a solid team like the Mavericks on the road surely did some wonders for the team’s confidence.
Ramon Sessions once again had a terrific performance and that helped earn him the starting spot in tonight’s game. The Lakers and Blazers have had some intense games in the past few seasons, and Los Angeles needed this win to gain some ground on the Spurs and Thunder in the Western Conference standing.
The Lakers opened the game by feeding the ball to Andrew Bynum since he had a clear advantage over Joel Przybilla. Bynum connected on his first two shots and scored six of the Lakers’ first eight points. Overall, Los Angeles was trying to speed up the pace of the game and with Sessions running the point, it was easy for the big men to find shots near the basket. Los Angeles shot 3-3 to open the game and were playing efficient basketball; with 9:28 left in the quarter, the Lakers were up 8-4.
Sessions was dictating the pace of the game and his influence on the court was clearly evident. His speed was something the Lakers did not have at that position for a while and in certain plays, he was the only Laker in the front-court. The point guard understood when to penetrate to the paint himself and when to kick it out to his other star players. Kobe Bryant allowed Sessions to dominate the ball, but his 2-3 shooting and early four points allowed the Lakers to go up 15-10 at the 6:47 mark.
As the quarter progressed the Lakers kept a cushion from the Blazers and were having success by feeding the ball to their young players. Sessions and Bynum played well on both ends of the court and helped the Lakers open a nice opening quarter lead. Bynum was in complete control of the paint and his easy dunks and shots deflated the Blazers. As for Sessions his perimeter shooting was a boon for the Lakers and he was winning over the hearts of the fans. With 3:38 left in the quarter, the Lakers were up 21-16.
In the latter part of the first quarter, Kobe Bryant found his offensive groove and helped expand the team’s lead. He finished the first 12 minutes by shooting 5-6 and pouring in 11 points. The Lakers held a 30-19 lead and were shooting 62 percent overall.
The Lakers had their second unit on the court to open the period, with the only starters being Andrew Bynum and World Peace. However, Bynum was not the only player who was having his way on the offensive end. Everyone was making big plays on the court and it seemed like the confidence was flowing through all of the players. World Peace and Josh McRoberts contributed on the offensive end and that helped the team open up a 34-23 lead with 9:40 left in the half.
The coaching staff remained with the same lineup for nearly half of the period, and those five players worked extremely well together. They did not allow the Blazers to put together a major run and found a way to come up with buckets when they were most needed. The Lakers’ front court was doing wonders on the defensive end and that resulted in easy looks on the other side. With 6:33 remaining in the period, the Lakers had a 42-30 advantage.
However, the Lakers hit a cold streak and the Blazers took complete advantage. Los Angeles was not longer hitting shots and no doubt hit a snag on the offensive end. It seemed like everything would fall apart for the Lakers, and ironically, it was when Gasol and Bryant were subbed into the game.
The Blazers did in fact make a major surge late in the fourth quarter. The Lakers could have easily had a double-digit lead heading into halftime, but LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up big for the Blazers during a late rally. After two quarters, the Lakers held a 53-48 lead.
The Lakers struggled to open the quarter and this time, the Blazers’ big men were having their way in the paint. Their front court was attacking the rim and was getting easy looks near the basket or at the free-throw line. The Lakers missed three of their first five shots and as a result their lead was cut down to two, 58-56, with 9:20 remaining in the period.
Los Angeles was turning the ball over too many times and had amassed 13 of them at the mid-way mark of the third quarter. Due to the careless giveaways, the Blazers were able to run in the open-court and make a major dent in their deficit. Portland was by far the more aggressive team and they came out of the half with a sense of purpose. With 6:00 left to play in the quarter, the Lakers were ahead 63-61.
However, the Lakers found their shot as the quarter progressed and Metta World Peace provided the team with a much needed 12 points. World Peace put some energy into the Lakers and his ability to make shots pumped up everyone else on the team. Los Angeles was beginning to make its shots and were starting to create some separation from the Blazers. At the 3:40 mark of the quarter, the Lakers held a 71-66 lead.
After 36 minutes of play, the Lakers had only a one point lead, 71-70. The Lakers were once in complete control of the game, but the Blazers fought back and remained in striking distance.
The Lakers began the final period with only two starters on the court, but luckily the reserves once again played well. Barnes continued with his stellar play and was making plays on both ends of the court. Following his impressive chase down block and jumper on the perimeter, the Lakers took a 78-74 lead with 9:10 left in the game.
Eventually the Lakers had to rely on their starters to carry the offense and Bynum was the center piece for the majority of the plays. The Blazers did not have a lot of big bodies to challenge Bynum so it was best that he was fed the ball every time down. However, Sessions also had his way with Portland’s guards and he offered Bynum some assistance on offense. At the 6:46 mark of the period, the Lakers were up 84-81.
In the final five minutes of the game, the teams went back-and-forth and every possession carried a little more meaning. The intensity level was at a high and both teams fought hard until the very end. The game was close in the last minutes, but this time, Sessions was the one who made the big plays. Sessions was knocking down long-range shots and he was also finding his teammates for open shots.
Kobe could not find his shot in the fourth quarter, but luckily Sessions carried the Lakers to the finish line and led them to a win, 103-96. Sessions put in 20 points and 11 assists, World Peace had 14 points and Bynum poured in 28 points.
The Lakers will be back in action on Sunday when they host the Grizzlies at 7:30 p.m. PST.
We asked before tonight’s game who would be the first Laker players to record a dunk, three-point shot and steal.
The first person who predicted the players correctly would win the prize and it turns out Elizabeth LeMay‘s picks of Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant and Kobe Bryant were correct! Congratulations!