Apr 11, 2013, 4:15 AM EDT
The criticism for this Lakers team, which has struggled mightily in consecutive nights against teams that have long since been out of the playoff picture, is both real and well-justified.
But regardless of the poor starts, even worse team defense, and a propensity to play down to their level of competition, the reality is that L.A. is being dragged to victory by one of the league’s best players, and that’s been pretty exciting to watch.
Kobe Bryant followed up his 23 point fourth quarter on Tuesday with a 47 point effort in Portland, which was enough to lead his team to a 113-106 victory that pushed the Lakers a full game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.
Portland has historically been a tough place for the Lakers to play, as evidenced by L.A.’s 4-17 record there since 2002 heading into this one. But with the Blazers starting four rookies alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, and with the Lakers desperately needing this game to stay in the hunt to make the postseason, the Lakers appeared to have the advantage.
It didn’t start out that way. Whether due to playing on the second night of a back-to-back or simply due to the energy brought by Portland’s young starters, the Blazers jumped on the Lakers early, and put up 41 points in the first quarter led by 17 in the period from Damian Lillard, who finished with 38 points and nine assists.
Thanks to Bryant matching Lillard’s 17 in that first frame, the Lakers trailed by just eight despite the home team’s offensive explosion. L.A. played Portland even in the second behind another 11 from Bryant, before the Lakers clamped down defensively a bit in the second half.
The Blazers shot just 28.6 percent from the field over the game’s final two periods, while the Lakers knocked down 61.3 percent of their looks over that span. Bryant was an efficient 5-10 from the field in the second half for 19 points, and Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol combined to shoot 10-13 from the field during that stretch, with the Lakers getting the ball to Gasol down the stretch for 11 fourth quarter points.
The struggles from the Lakers on consecutive nights to put away lottery teams when every win for them is so crucial doesn’t bode well for the team’s chances, should it eventually sneak into the postseason. But while it hasn’t been pretty, the wins have come nonetheless, and have come thanks to staggering performances from Bryant when his team has needed him most.
L.A.controls its own destiny in terms of making the playoffs now, with just three games remaining in the regular season. All three are at home, but they’re all against playoff teams — Golden State, San Antonio, and Houston round out the Lakers’ schedule.
The Lakers will worry about facing San Antonio or Oklahoma City in a seven game series if and when the time comes. Until then, they’ll take these wins any way they come, even if it’s required ridiculous efforts from Bryant on consecutive nights against sub-par opponents to make them happen.
It seems as though Bryant simply won’t let the Lakers miss the playoffs, regardless of what the ultimate outcome might be once his team actually gets there.
Jul 23, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Dallas, seeking third point guard, has already met with Mo Williams
Jul 23, 2014, 1:00 AM EDT
As Cavaliers position themselves for Kevin Love trade, now was the time to sign No. 33 pick
Jul 23, 2014, 12:00 AM EDT
Bzdelik, who most recently coached Wake Forest, previously served as Nuggets head coach
Jul 22, 2014, 11:20 PM EDT
Bieber wearing a Nets hat, so you know what that means…
Jul 22, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
Donald’s lawyer says ruling might not come for years
Jul 22, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT
Devin Harris 2.0?
Jul 22, 2014, 8:20 PM EDT
Brooklyn reaches regular-season roster limit of 15 players
Jul 22, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT
Utah reportedly trades John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy to Cleveland for Carrick Felix, second-round pick and $1 million
Jul 22, 2014, 6:53 PM EDT
Sterling will be removed as Clippers owner one way or another because he is toxic to the organization right now.
Jul 22, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
He’s going to get some of Paul Pierce’s minutes.
Jul 22, 2014, 5:11 PM EDT
Adam Silver does the classy thing. Again.
Jul 22, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Evan Turner is now a reclamation project — if he wants to get paid he has to become more efficient.
Jul 22, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT
It means the Timberwolves want to send Kevin Martin out in the Love deal, Cavs trying to make that happen.
Jul 22, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
Once signed, he can’t be traded for 30 days … to the Timberwolves, for example.
Jul 22, 2014, 2:04 PM EDT
Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler would reportedly be sent to Minnesota.
Jul 22, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT
Blake Griffin, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Damian Liillard among players who would face fines if they participated in a planned exhibition in Manila.
High school standout Emmanuel Mudiay skips college for China payday. You’ll see more of this if age limit goes up.
Jul 22, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT
If the age limit jumps to 20 more players will choose getting paid over college.
Jul 22, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT
Wizards take a more subtle approach than some of the others we’ve seen.
Jul 22, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT
Rookies Doug McDermott and Marcus Smart make the cut to train with the National Team in Vegas.
Jul 22, 2014, 11:13 AM EDT
Vujacic is known for his time with the Lakers, and hasn’t played meaningful minutes since 2011.
- Justin Bieber and Kevin Durant share brunch (photo) 17
- Clippers CEO: If Sterling remains owner then Doc Rivers, players, sponsors all ready to bolt 45
- Report: Cavaliers trying to acquire other players to put in Kevin Love trade 59
- Report: Bulls making push to trade for Kevin Love 71
- Seven standout players from Las Vegas Summer League 10
- Maverick Carter: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade still speak nearly daily 37
- Red hot Ray McCallum leads Sacramento Kings to Summer League title with 77-68 win against Houston 3
- Lakers great Michael Cooper diagnosed with cancer 16