A down to the wire finish was not what anyone expected tonight, but the Lakers-Blazers game had fans on the edge of their seat. Pau Gasol (22 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists) seemed to be the definite difference tonight, playing smart and aggressive basketball leading the Lakers to narrowly defeated a strong Portland team (41-19 on the season) 107-106.
Overall, the entire game for the Lakers was noticeably strong. The Lakers led by 13 at the end of the first quarter and continued to see consistent scoring throughout the second, which led to 63 total points by halftime. Although they maintained the lead through the third, the Lakers still allowed a significant amount of scoring from the opposition; the Blazers scored 36 points in the second and came out of the half with a vengeance scoring 28 points.
The fourth quarter is where things really started to get interesting. The Lakers led 101-92 with 6:02 left in the game, but subsequently went on to miss 8 shots, allowing Portland to once again cut the lead. Turnovers and careless passes opened the door for the Trailblazers to eventually tie the game at 105 all from a Wesley Matthews fadeaway jump shot with 1:10 left to play in regulation. Jordan Farmar then committed a crucial foul on Damian Lillard, sending him to the line for two big time free throws. Lillard hit the first, sending his point total to 20, but missed the second, which kept their lead over the Lakers at only one point; however, as the Lakers failed to box out the shooter, Lillard managed to grab his own miss and eat more time off the clock. Following a missed three by Matthews, the Lakers ran an amazing out of bounds play with Jodie Meeks throwing a nice backdoor lob to Wesley Johnson to put the Lakers up 107-106. Unfortunately for Portland, they could not answer back on the following possession, resulting in a thrilling victory for the Lakers.
Robin Lopez made his presence felt tonight for the Blazers notching a double double with 19 points and 16 rebounds, and Nicolas Batum complimented his teammate’s play by also attaining a double double scoring 17 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge also had a strong scoring night, leading his team with 21 points on the evening. As a team, the Trailblazers out rebounded the Lakers 53-44, but it seems as though turnovers were the difference at the end of regulation as Portland had as many as 20 turnovers.
Kent Bazemore and Wesley Johnson provided sufficient scoring and rebounding for their squad, both scoring 14 points and pulling down 7 boards; Johnson also had 4 assists and 2 big time blocks. Meeks also had a terrific scoring night putting up 21 points and finishing the night with a +11 in the +/- statistic. Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman both did not see the floor tonight, but Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly did get quality minutes, which has not really been the story in previous games. It seems as though coach D’Antoni is still tweaking and experimenting with this Lakers lineup.
Kendall Marshall (who has been somewhat absent in the scoring column as of late with the recent additions of MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore to the lineup) only ended up scoring 7 points tonight, but he showed he could still find his teammates by finishing the game with 11 assists. Brooks also had a low scoring night with only 8 points, but he surprisingly made his presence felt in the paint among the trees grabbing 7 rebounds.
After just defeating the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers followed with a thrilling victory away from home in the heart of Rip City. Now the Los Angeles must carry their energy into a second game of a back to back against the New Orleans Pelicans at home on Tuesday March 4th.
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash may possibly be done for the season. Lakers advance to 21-39 on the season. Lakers play New Orleans Pelicans in a back to back tomorrow night March 4th at 7:30 PST.