Kobe Bryant knew the Lakers needed this game if they wanted to maintain control of their own destiny in their drive to qualify for the playoffs. So the Lakers' veteran star played all 48 minutes and imposed his will on the Blazers, rallying Los Angeles to a come-from-behind 113-106 victory.
Bryant scored 47 points, the most ever scored by a Trail Blazers opponent at the Rose Garden. He made 14 of 27 shots from the field and a perfect 18 of 18 from the line. Kobe played a terrific all-around game as he grabbed eight rebounds, dished out five assists, blocked four shots, and stole the ball on three occasions.
The short-handed Blazers played without three injured starters, Nikola Batum, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Hickson. Three rookies, Victor Claver, Will Barton, and Meyers Leonard started in their spots joining LaMarcus Aldridge and fellow rookie Damian Lillard. It was the first time in franchise history that the Blazers started four rookies in a game.
Coach Terry Stotts devised a strategy of running with the basketball on makes or misses, trying to wear down the Lakers, who had played the night before. The up-tempo pace worked to perfection in the first quarter when Portland scored 41 points. Lillard paced the Blazers with 17 points and 7 assists to help the Blazers take a 41-33 lead. Lillard would go on to score a career-high 38 points, but it wasn't enough as Bryant's 47 proved to be too much for the Blazers to overcome.
The Lakers got a big lift from Pau Gasol who scored eleven 4th-quarter points and finished the game with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists. Dwight Howard, held to only 8 points and 4 rebounds in the first half, finished with 20 points and 10 boards. Also key to the victory was a pair of Steve Blake offensive rebounds late in the game when the Blazers were desperate to get the basketball.
LaMarcus Aldridge posted another double-double (37th of the season) with 17 points and 16 rebounds, and Luke Babbitt came off the bench to drain four of his five 3-point-tries. But the Blazers were outscored 15-6 in the game's final 5:34, and Portland suffered its ninth consecutive loss.
Next up for the Blazers is a Friday night home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Game time is 7 p.m. with coverage tipping off at 6 p.m. on 1190 and 102.3 KEX.