Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant dribbled baseline and faded away for a jumper over Portland’s Brandon Roy to give the Lakers a five-point lead with just over 30 seconds left in the game. He punched his fist down as he turned to the Laker faithful, yelling words probably not allowed on this blog, and grabbing his jersey like he didn’t know what else to do to channel his energy and passion for moments like this. In the Lakers’ next possession, after the Blazers had drilled a three to get within two points, Derek Fisher calmly dribbled around Rudy Fernandez and stuck a mid-range jumper to give the team a four point lead, holding his left hand steady posing as he ran backwards, reminiscent of his 2009 Game 3 performance against the Orlando Magic.

Did the Lakers miss Andrew Bynum? Yes. Did they practically sleepwalk through the majority of the game? Yes. Were they going to let this Portland team really think they could win a few games, let alone the series in the post-season if these two teams met? That would be a definitive he…ck no; not on the Bryant-Fisher watch.

It’s not as if the Lakers aren’t familiar with playing without Andrew Bynum. He’s missed such long stretches of games since his arrival that the Lakers have had two identities each season: with and without him. This season since the All-Star break, however, the “with Bynum” version of the Lakers appeared to have gotten an upgrade. The team had been feeding off of his defensive energy while the opposition had become reluctant to enter the paint in his presence. For most of tonight’s game, it appeared the Lakers dependence on Bynum’s defense was greater than they thought. But when it counted, towards the end of the game, the Lakers finally prevailed.

Subbing into the startling line-up for Bynum was, as per usual, Lamar Odom. His case for the Sixth Man of the Year Award should, if it isn’t already, greatly considered. Mr. Versatility can coordinate the half-court with the starters or run the break with the reserves and tonight he did everything. He scored (16 points on 8-11 from the field!), he worked the glass (11 rebounds), kept the offense going (6 assists), and played defense (2 steals). When he wasn’t putting back a missed Derek Fisher jumper, he was hitting a jumper from the corner. He sent a bouncepass to Pau Gasol for a dunk, heaved a ¾ long pass to Shannon Brown for a dunk and 1, then he hit a cutting Kobe Bryant with a pass for a short jumper. On a night where his teammates could not find their rhythm on offense, Odom gladly sang them his tune. At the risk of sounding corny and cliché – it was, quite simply music to their ears.

Pau Gasol, filling in in the middle, was not his usual, consistent self on offense, shooting just 6-15 for his 14 points. Gasol’s shots were just unable to find the bottom of the net, but still, big brother did little brother, Bynum proud. Gasol collected 13 rebounds and blocked two shots, adding in a trio of assists for a balanced game. He also wore himself down chasing Lamarcus Aldridge (18 points on 8-17) around.

Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, who combined for 30 points on 12-26, didn’t have one of their more efficient scoring nights, but it was their performance at the end of the game that forgave everything that came before it. The final 2:30 minutes of the game went like this: Bryant steal and dunk; Fisher steal and driving layup; Bryant defensive board and floater; Bryant fadeaway; Fisher jumper; Lakers win. With Bryant still nursing (but obviously not coddling) a sprained ankle and both players constantly being barraged with talk of their “decline”, it’s safe to say the Lakers’ captains certainly earned their stripes.

Phil Jackson noted that Matt Barnes’ buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the third quarter started something special. Riding that momentum, the Lakers defended Portland into a 14-point, 28% shooting fourth quarter. And after allowing Nicolas Batum to go off for 19 points in the first half, the Lakers held him to just six points in the second.

That 13-4 and 10-0 run to end the 2nd quarter, not to mention the 9-point lead by Portland, did not deter this veteran squad from fighting for their almost flawless post-All-Star game record. With balanced scoring and more active defense, the Lakers got this win not because they played one of their perfect games, but because they’ve perfected the art of closing them.

Box Score
Pre-game thoughts: With Andrew Bynum suspended for two games, let’s see how the Lakers fair without their defensive stopper in the paint.
Half-time thoughts: 48-44 – The Lakers had a 9-point lead and thought it’d be enough to keep Portland at bay…until the Blazers went on a 13-4 run, and then a 10-0 run to end the quarter to take the lead. The Lakers are getting outrebounded 23-18, 10-6 in offensive boards giving Portland a 14-6 advantage in 2nd chance points. Their protection in the paint is not nearly as formidable without Bynum and they’re doing nothing against Nicolas Batum, who leads all scores with 19 points on 8-10. Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers with 10 points on 4-8. If the Lakers want to keep the Blazers from exacting revenge for that win in Portland, they need to do more work on the offensive glass and be more aggressive at the hoop. Too many missed bunnies.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: The Lakers…until the last six minutes of the fourth quarter – It’s like they wanted to conserve their energy for the final few minutes before playing any lockdown defense, driving to the basket, and rebounding the ball.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher may have been money in the clutch, but if it were not for Lamar Odom, the Lakers may not have even been in the position to win the game. He’s the only Laker who shot more than 50%, plus the double-digit rebounds, plus the leader in assists for the game.

  • Gugy

    Great win. Showed a lot of desire on the team.
    If we keep this attitude and effort. 3 Peat baby!

    • http://Rentacarnow.com RentACarNow

      Great win! Follow us on twitter and retweet our Kobe Giveaway for your chance at an autographed Kobe NBA2k game!

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  • 242LakerFan

    I knew this game had to come down to effort and intensity. The problem was that, while neither was lacking and the Lakers were getting shots, good shots, open shots, point blank shots at the basket, they just weren’t falling.
    But they sustained the effort and, as was inevitable, the breaks started turning their way in the end.
    In another of a series of poorly, unevenly officiated games, epitomized by a blatantly one-sided technical foul on Ron Artest, apparently for the crime of sharing a mutual hug after the whistle with Gerald Wallace, the Lakers kept at it until the big shots did start falling for them. The big shots at the end, of course came from the hands of the usual suspects, the ancient ones, the rock and the flame. This time, though, they were sparked by an unlikely source; the third quarter buzzer-betaing half-court banker from the hands of Mr. Effort himself, Matt Barnes.
    This was a great win, against a tough opponent (supplemented by the refs), short-handed and back against the wall. Unfortunately, the lack of mid-season effort has put us in a position where we can do little to improve our playoff position but keep winning and hope the teams we are chasing lose. But by sustaining this kind of effort, we can stay ahead of Dallas and I believe we will end up ahead of Boston and Chicago. Come June, we’ll be celebrating #17 at home.
    NWA

    • patrick

      We will not jump Boston or Chicago. And if Boston stay ahead and snatch #1 seed we can kiss # 17 good bye. Reasons being that we are coming off 3 straight finals appearances and this year we will have to do it on the road. The fatigue factor will catch us but let’s keep our fingers crossed. Boton just won back to back on the road and are doing it without Shaq when he comes back they will be stronger. I wonder how the tiebreaker scenerio would work if and east team and west team tied after the head to head.

      • 242LakerFan

        Well, thank you, Mr. Sunshine!

  • bbz62

    true grit.

  • ZK

    Great win over the ZEBRAS, as usual, and the Blazers.
    The best player in the world gets hacked over and over again, and shoots two free throws for the entire game.

    And the LAKERS, please spare your fans the agony of having to listen Stu the Laker Hater Lantz try to justify every call against the Lakers and criticize any call we get or the opposing team does not get. It was pathetic of him trying to show that Kobe fouled Andre Miller on the steal, when replays clearly showed he did not. .This is only one example of what this Laker Hater does every game. I do not want a homer, but certainly not a blatant Laker Hater. Your fans deserve better than Stu Lantz.

    He should get a job with the NBA as a Zebra, and screw the Lakers like the rest of them do.

  • Dragon

    They barely won and it shows they been depending on Bynum a lot for defensive they really do need a back up center hopefully they get get Theo to do that.

  • http://www.livewhatyoulove1.com/ reni

    as an angeleno but a current resident of portland, i will always cheer for l.a. that game was down to the wire. d-fish and the black mamba showed us again what clutch shooting means. it’s the close games that the lakers need to win, and they need to do it all throughout the playoffs so we can get another ring. l.a. lakers for life. best of luck fellas.

    • riley

      well damn reni you fine as hell!

      • not6not7not8not9

        dont talk to my woman.

      • yash

        dont scare the few women we got in this blog away man.

  • C

    Stu Lantz is the best announcer in the league because he doesn’t just root for the Lakers but criticizes them as well.

    Listen to Mike and Mike for the Blazers who argue EVERY call and say things like, “I won’t give Fisher a fist bump, I’d rather spit in his hand.”

    He actually said that last night before the game.

    Stu’s a legend and I love that he calls it like he sees it, not how the fans want him to see it.

    p.s. It is bull that Kobe only got 2FT. Im sure thats why he was so fired up.

    • ZK

      If it is bull that he only got 2 free throws, where was your legend Stu pointing out the many fouls committed on Kobe last night?
      As far as calling it as seeing it, tell me about him insisting Kobe should have been called for a foul when he clearly stole the ball from Andre Miller?
      Again, I do not want a homer, but certainly not Stu Lantz who thinks that the Lakers foul the opposing team on nearly every play, and is mum when the Laker players get fouled.

    • ilkebasketball

      agreed.

      i once watched a lakers=blazers game with their announcers and they were so blatantly biased it was silly.
      i’m glad stu tries to keep it fair.

      big ups to him, he is a legend.

      • ZK

        Being anti Laker does not qualify as being fair.

        He has not been fair since Chick is gone. He could not dare show his true colors with Chick around.
        Laker organization should get someone who is truly fair, which Stu is not.

        • C

          Well I dont think that former Laker player and Laker broadcaster for decades is anti-Laker but that’s just me.

  • xtro

    how many F bombs did Kobe drop after hitting that shot?

    • 242LakerFan

      I don’t f*%&^$# know, I f*%&^$# lost count, but it was f*%&^$# awesome! I love this f*%&^$# team!!!

  • fingerpointin

    Lamar six man of the year……..

  • LizzakeShizzow

    Joe Smith’s rare appearance was the game changer. Portland had no idea what to do from that point on. GO LAKERS!

    • 242LakerFan

      Yeah! Joe Smith for MVP!!!

  • Kobe = Fake Tough Guy

    The man is washed up!

    • Chi-Town Walt

      KILL YOURSELF YOU’RE A CLOWN! I BET EVEN YOUR MOTHER THINKS YOU’RE A MORON. KOBE FAKE! YOU’RE FAKE AND S HATER! JERK!

      • ilkebasketball

        HAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHHHAHAHAH

  • Chi-Town Walt

    Great Win! What a way 2 step up 4 Drew! Drew showed da league that we have a presence in da middle. PLAYOFF INTENSITY!

  • Nick

    Bynum is a fucking cheating coward. What a blatant and horrible flagrant foul against a young star like Beasley. We are all very lucky that Beasley didn’t suffer an Andrew Bogut like injury. I mean a hard foul is fine but to just lay a guy out with a hellacious elbow that’s wrong. 2 years ago he gave Gerald Wallace a collapsed lung with a very similar brutal hit! I’ve seen K.G, Perk, and Big Baby give hard fouls plenty of times. but that was just wrong and u L.A fans know it.Luckily if you guys make it to June and see Boston then we won’t have to worry about that shit happening because we will have the O’Neal brothers and K.G and Baby to make sure that shit don’t happen. Just Shaq’s presence alone and you’ll see Bynum acting like Gasol out there.. in other words, like a little bitch! And Ron Artest should worry about playing AVERAGE basketball and not fighting… besides Gerald Wallace would knock his fucking teeth out.

    • rondo

      Nick you are a real fucking clown leave this board rightaway!

      • Nick

        haha u replied to me u fucking idiot!

    • LizzakeShizzow

      You really think Shaq and Jermaine have anything left in the tank? What dreamland do you live in? Oh yeah you’re a Celtics fan. Still bragging about all those championships in the 60s (woodstock era lol). To keep you up to date on current events… Lakers are dominating from 2000 and beyond. Celtics won ONE ring in the last 20 years. LMFAO!!!!

  • juanv

    Can any body tell me how kyle. Freakin. Lowry got player of the week and not Bynum. Any time fagget ass Lebron doess anything they give him player of the week.

  • Nick

    Bynum is a pussy… he’ll hurt his little knee again soon. If not then Shaq will pound him in the finals… if u fags are lucky enough to make it there.

    • LizzakeShizzow

      Lakers and Bulls got to 50 wins before Celtics. You keep mentioning “if you get there”… You better worry bout your own asses with Miami or Chicago. We got this out West okay Nick the Prick?

    • rondo

      Nick the Celtics are washed up like you dude! Your girl don’t even want your washed up stink ass.

    • xtro

      remember Game 7 last year?

  • Laker8n4te24

    Nick, u talk shit about drew calling him pussy cuz he has had unlucky knee injuries? How about ur washed up garbage ass oneal’s? They have played s combined 20 games in last 2 years hahahahaha so shut ur hypocrite ass up u fat geek

    • Nick

      you stupid ass Fakers Fans are so easy to bait. Now pull your pants down u fag!

      • Dick in nick

        So they can join you since your pants are around your ankles. Keep that back bent baby!

      • rondo

        Only thing fake is you little bitch!

  • 242LakerFan

    You guys have to understand Nick, okay? Nick has deep-seeded insecurity issues. He wants to act all tough, so he talks smack about something he knows we get emotional about. Then, when we do respond, he falls back to the ‘clever’ position of, “oh, you’re so easy to bait. I was only baiting you!”
    Tell you what, Nick, we’ll always answer when you talk crap about the Lakers so your little tactic will always work. That means you win. You’re the best, Nick. A real master at what you do.
    Yes, Nick, you are, in fact…
    THE MASTER BAITER!