Feb. 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) holds onto a rebound as Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) defends during the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Lakers Jump On Blazers Early, Hold On Late

Not everything is at it appears at Staples Center. The two teams that played last night, the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trailblazers, look much different when they play on opposing courts. Last time these two faced-off in the Rose Garden the Blazers then played like the Lakers now. For the Lake Show this is a common theme no matter the opponent though. The Lakers looked nothing like the team that lost in US Airways the previous night. The Lakers last night played like the Suns the night before.

Got all that?

Here’s all you need to know about the Lakers’ final home game before the All-Star break. If you went to the kitchen to heat up a pizza at the opening tip then chances are by the time you sat down to eat the Lakers were up by 25 on the Blazers.

This was the rarest of all Laker performances. They held Portland to only 7 points in the first quarter and were actually getting out in transition. Amazingly the Lakers turned defensive stops into cheap buckets at the other end. This is a recipe for success no matter where they play and no matter who the opponent is.

Andrew Bynum was a force on the boards. Never forget rebounding is a key component of a great defense. 19 bruising boards by Bynum helped lockup the Blazers as Portland only scored 30 points in the first half. That is a complete reversal from how the Lakers defended the Suns the night before.

Losing large leads is a common theme for these Lakers unfortunately. As you’d expect this one got a little too interesting late. Portland came out of the locker room on fire dropping seven triples in the third frame alone. If you got up for a second serving of your pizza you likely sat down in time to see the Laker lead shrink to a slim 10 points.

Not to worry. L.A. got it going again and a play the symbolized the night closed the contest.

With Portland closing the gap Drew grabbed a rebound, looked up court and threw an Aaron Rodgers-esque dart to Kobe Bryant. Mamba caught the rock in-stride at half court, put the ball on the floor a couple times and laid it in at the rim for a nice bucket in transition. The Laker lead was back to 17 and after that the benches were emptied.

Kobe was the constant killer all night. He did his usual with 28 points in efficient fashion. 13 of 26 shooting is a sick way to kill your enemy slowly. But it wasn’t Kobe alone that set the tone. Believe it or not the Lakers bench helped get this game under thumb early. Well…Steve Blake did.

The battle of the benches went the way of Los Angeles tonight. Not that the L.A. second unit out-scored their Portland counterpart, but Blake was unconscious. 14 first half points went towards Blake’s best total as a Laker as he canned his first five threes to drop 17 on the night.

Blake’s buckets were a result of the Lakers moving the rock like one of Nino Brown’s best employees. They shared the ball all night and in some cases almost too much. Pau Gasol shrugged off all the drama in the last 48 hours with a nice night of 16 and 12. He could have had more if Pau wasn’t so content to drop dimes in situations where he had good looks at the rim. At one point Gasol gave away a dunk to flip the ball over his shoulder to Bynum.

Hard to fault a guy that is unselfish but you’d like to see Gasol go for his more often. Something he’s doing on the regular is filling up the box score. Pau’s double-double streak has now hit double digits.

Given all the headlines made in the last 24 hours this was a great response. What with Gasol being distracted by trade rumors, Kobe mad cause Mitch Kupchak won’t respond to said rumors and Kupchak responding to Kobe that the team won’t respond to trade rumors and all.

Got all that?

If not don’t worry. The drama is just getting started. We’ve still got two more Mission: impossible road tests coming up before the All-Star festivities get going. That’s more than enough to fuel future dramatics and theatrics.  All I know is that when the Lakers play with this kind of effort and energy they can compete with anybody. Makes you wonder if the real struggle is the Lakers vs. themselves.

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Tags: Andrew Bynum Kobe Bryant Pau Gasol Portland Trailblazers Steve Blake

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