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.
Aug 27, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Davis had 18 points, nine rebounds, five blocks and three steals in 20 minutes of work.
Aug 27, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT
The point guards made this blowout more fun to watch.
Aug 26, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
I don’t see what could possibly go wrong here.
Aug 26, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
Milwaukee’s trade with Clippers cleared a roster spot
Aug 26, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
Aug 26, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT
Former Cavaliers center, 39, has been retired three years
Aug 26, 2014, 7:40 PM EDT
Glen Taylor also questions whether Cleveland should offer Love five-year contract
Aug 26, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Murry receives $250,000 guarantee
Aug 26, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT
Derrick Rose struggles off the bench against Slovenia
Aug 26, 2014, 5:23 PM EDT
Oklahoma City will create trade exception, and Philadelphia will waive Thabeet
Aug 26, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT
Kevin Love: ‘My decision’ swayed by LeBron James calling just after choosing Cavaliers in free agency
Aug 26, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Number of camera positions behind baseline to be halved
Aug 26, 2014, 3:27 PM EDT
Clippers limit their present and future, and the Bucks gain an easy asset
Aug 26, 2014, 2:28 PM EDT
Cleveland not offering assets as of yet, so Denver’s not biting.
Aug 26, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT
Career three-pointers made is the only category where this statement begins to make any sense.
Aug 26, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT
Spurs, Bulls, Thunder next on the list.
Aug 26, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT
Brother of the Bucks’ Giannis turned down a more lucrative offer to play overseas.
Aug 26, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
Well, she looks better shooting free throws than he does anyway.
Aug 26, 2014, 11:14 AM EDT
Turner wants to keep its NBA rights, and with negotiations looming, the company has planned layoffs in order to have the necessary cash on hand.
Aug 26, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT
Utah also adds Dee Bost, Jack Cooley and Brock Motum
- Timberwolves owner: Kevin Love might regret trade because he’ll be third banana with Cavaliers 37
- Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried lead Team USA in final World Cup tune-up 16
- Thunder trade Hasheem Thabeet to 76ers 33
- From late-arriving to a LeBron James favorite, Kevin Love comes full circle 14
- Clippers trade Jared Dudley and first rounder to Bucks for Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica 22
- Report: Cavaliers trying to trade for Nuggets’ Timofey Mozgov 25
- Cavaliers, with LeBron James and Kevin Love, favored by oddsmakers to win 2015 NBA title 29
- Scout says Carmelo Anthony can be good triangle fit — if he moves the ball 20