After last night’s loss to Denver, a game that the Lakers SHOULD have and COULD have won, a trip to the Rose Garden in Portland the day after seemed the least likely source of redemption and encouragement.
The losing streak in that arena for the Lakers is completely incomprehensible.
How can a team have that much bad luck in one place? If history served its purpose tonight, we’d be looking at another hash mark under the L-column, and given Kobe’s absence from the line-up, it might’ve been a relatively acceptable loss. Thankfully, there was no loss to accept. Instead, there is a victory to relish.
The first shot for the Lakers came from a Lamar Odom tip-in after an offensive rebound off an Andrew Bynum miss. It was a foreshadowing, to say the least, as Odom rebounded all evening to match his career-high of 22 boards. If rebounds signify effort, the Lakers were full of it, out-rebounding the Blazers 47-30 and playing a most inspired evening of basketball.
They won every quarter after the first, bearing down their defensive prowess as the game wore on.
In the 3rd quarter, the Lakers kept Portland to 16 points and then only 18 in the fourth. But it wasn’t just defense that won this game tonight. It was also a balanced offensive attack.
Shannon Brown, filling in the most minutes to cover for Kobe, was a presence from the get-go, in the end contributing 19 points, 3 rebounds and a dime.
Jordan Farmar pitched in 12 points, and even Sasha gave in his 5 cents.
Collectively, the bench contributed with 38 points, and that was without Lamar Odom.
Derek Fisher, rarely seeking to score, got 14 points, not to mention 6 assists.
Ron Artest had scored only 2 points in the first half before hitting three consecutive 3-pointers, one coming right at the buzzer to end the 2nd quarter, definitely an energy and confidence booster.
With Andrew Bynum sitting out the second half after falling on his hip in the first quarter, the need for every single player to step up was even greater. Six Lakers scored in double figures tonight, and with 24 assists to go along with just 10 turnovers, the Lakers won this one together.
There was no need for game winners tonight. A concerted effort would do… and did.
Something happened to the Blazers in the second half. Without Brandon Roy leading their pack, there was a definite loss of order and composure. The Portland crowd couldn’t bail their young team out of this one. It didn’t matter how loudly they cheered after the occasional Blazer make. The crowd was, in fact, not as rambunctious as they’ve been in the past. Maybe it’s because their team unraveled and the Lakers suddenly found themselves leading by 19. Maybe it’s because they’re not used to seeing the Lakers fight back. Or maybe, just maybe, they felt robbed that Kobe Bryant wasn’t there for them to hate.
Pre-Game Thoughts: No Kobe? In Portland? The Basketball Gods are cruel!
Half-time Thoughts: A 6-point lead after a Ron Artest buzzer-beating 3?! When was the last time the Lakers led at half-time up here?
Most Thoughtless Player of the Game: Pau Gasol, who seems to be greasing his hands with butter lately because he can barely keep control of the ball.
Most Thought-filled Player of the Game: Rebounding monster – Lamar Odom.