So THAT'S why the Lakers always lose in Portland. They finally bench Kobe Bryant and they get their first win in Portland since 2005. They had lost nine in a row at the Rose Garden before Saturday's 99-82 victory.
Bryant's sprained left ankle caused him to miss his first game due to injury since December 8, 2006. But you couldn't have too much sympathy for the Lakers since the Blazers were also without their star, Brandon Roy. Roy has missed 12 of the last 13 games due to a sore hamstring and won't return until after the All-Star break. The last time these two teams played, Bryant scored 32 points on 37 shots and Roy scored 37 on just 11 shots. So, perhaps the loss of Roy is worse for the Blazers than the Lakers' loss of Bryant.
Early in the game the Blazers were hitting their mid-range jumpers. Their whole game was pick and pops to Juwan Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge and the two delivered. They combined to hit nine of 13 shots for 20 of the Blazers' first 29 points in the first quarter.But the Lakers defense turned it up after the early offensive success by the Blazers and forced them into difficult shots that were no longer falling. The Blazers scored just 53 points over the final three quarters and the Lakers simply overpowered them.
The Lakers have quite a size advantage over the Blazers and that was the difference in the game. The Blazers were outrebounded 47-30 and outscored in the paint 48-22. In the fourth quarter, Jerryd Bayless finally began to take the ball to the rim and good things happened but it was too little too late. The Blazers shot themselves out of this game.
Making up for Bryant's absence were Shannon Brown and Ron Artest. Brown had 19 points off the bench and Artest had a team-high 21 points on 12 shots. Artest is finally finding his place on offense. Over the last six games he's averaged 15.6 ppg while shooting 47 percent from three-point range.
Bryant will be re-evaluated on Sunday to see if he can go on Monday against the Spurs. On the broadcast though, the announcers said there's the possibility that they will shut Kobe down until after the All-Star break.
-Lamar Odom tied his career-high with 22 rebounds. The Blazers starting five combined for just 20 rebounds.
-Can Artest dunk? This seems like an absurd question - he's 6'7 and plays forward in the NBA. The answer has to be yes. But I have to ask because I couldn't remember him dunking this year. Against the Blazers he had at least three lay-ups where he could've thrown it down. One of them was really close to a dunk but he still just laid it in with both hands. I did go to YouTube and found this clip of him dunking this year but that was from the sixth game of the season. He might've lost a couple inches on his vertical since then.