Blazers outwork and outlast Lakers in testy 93-86 win
Portland was on a mission tonight, win and maintain the 6th seed and match up with Dallas, or lose and possibly face the two-time defending champions Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. The Lakers have already said they would rather not see us, and even though LA own the season series over us, Portland proved themselves that they can indeed beat LA, in fashion. That’s what happened here tonight Rip City; Kobe Bryant and the Lakers came into town rested and looking to avoid their three game losing skid but get outworked, out hustled and outplayed by a Blazers team that won last night in Utah and arrived back home in the wee hours of the morning. It was a battle of Portland’s starters against the Lakers as the Blazers just ran circles on the fast break, hit key shots and crawled under the skins of LA as Portland win 93-86 to avoid being swept for the first time since 1988. Gerald Wallace was the man tonight, being held to nine points back last month, he explodes on every single category and literally crushed the Lakers with his speed and determination. Every Blazer starter scores in double figures while three record double-doubles. If you missed this game, you missed surely one of the best wins for the Blazers this season.
The opening shot came from the hands of, you guessed it, Bryant. On the other side, it was Nic Batum, who dazzled in the loss last month, who scored Portland’s early points with many close buckets at the rim as he ran past Pau Gasol. The theme of the game came early as LA turned the ball over three times straight to give Portland the chance to run the fast break, led by Andre Miller with eight points, to give the Blazers a three-point edge. The Blazers were still feeling the hurt from no Marcus Camby inside as LA was grabbing a lot of offensive rebounds mainly from Gasol and Andrew Bynum. As Portland looked to shoot from outside, the three ball wasn’t there either early as they go 0-4 from downtown. The Lakers tie the game at 21 mainly from getting free throws (Ron Artest getting Brandon Roy in two quick fouls) and second chance points from those rebounds. Everything is tied up 21-21.
Roy starts the quarter giving Portland their first three of the night. LaMarcus Aldridge was kept quiet in the first as he went 0-2 but found his footing and hit his first make 8:40 left in the second. Despite LA grabbing a small lead, Portland hung tough throughout and wouldn’t go away quietly, poking away the ball from Bryant and Gasol and attacking the inside on the other end. Great ball movement from the Blazers of extra passes find Wallace alone at the top of the key for an open three to tie the game again at 31 with the Blazers shooting 56% from the floor. A 10-0 Portland run erupts from Wesley Matthews on the fast break and connects from deep himself, giving Portland a five point lead. Portland continue their run from another Wallace three and two Batum dunks over Bynum, and thrive a 19-2 run which stops when Matthews picks up his third foul, doing a terrific job defending Bryant. The moment Matthews steps off the court, it was Bryant who went on to score 14 straight points by himself and bombing away 4-5 from distance, all of them 10-20 feet away from the three-point line. Aldridge manages to connect three straight jump shots himself and Portland maintain a 53-47 lead at half.
The one thing on my mind at this point was when the Lakers were going to stage another comeback after Bryant just massacres the Blazers the last-minute of the second. Batum slips and steps on Artest’s foot and twists his bad ankle and wobbles off the court and into the locker room. Portland resume their fast paced game style of catching LA on the fast break and build another 10-2 run, once again at the hands of Miller who finds Matthews and Wallace under the basket off of beautiful zip line passes and lob dunks to Aldridge. The Lakers go 0-7 shooting from the floor as Portland grow their lead to its biggest of 22 points. The run goes to 19-3, and suddenly the feeling of a Laker comeback swarms my thoughts as I knew something was going to break, but every time Portland got the ball they just outworked the Lakers on every possession. That feared Laker run came from the unlikeliest of places as Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown come off the bench and out hustle Portland’s bench with an 8-0 run, and after a few minutes they score 12 straight unanswered points. Portland are still leading 74-62 and things were going to get ugly.
With Portland’s second unit still in the game, they go ice-cold at the wrong time to give LA the chance to gain momentum. They won’t score for six minutes and it wasn’t until all the starters came back in that things were back in business. The Lakers give the ball away three straight possessions and suddenly things got nasty between these two teams who have never liked each other whenever they’ve played. The bully was Artest who was guarding Wallace and on three straight possessions he kept kneeing, jabbing and trash talking at Wallace but Wallace kept his cool and was able to get to the foul line. Then it was Aldridge and Gasol going at it, then Wallace and Gasol and Wallace giving Bynum his sixth foul to foul him out. The Rose Garden began to chant GER-ALD WALL-ACE every time Artest fouled him. Los Angeles shoot another terrible quarter going 37% from the floor and only managing 1-12 field goals midway through. Two threes by Artest and a Odom lay up bring the Lakers within nine with 3:40 left but Wallace finds Batum in the side for the open three, followed by a Aldridge pick-n-pop jumper and the Blazers stand tall against the defending champions and win 93-86.
WHO WAS HOT
One of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time: five Blazers in double figures with everyone contributing on something and three Blazers with double-doubles. Gerald Wallace is a BEAST, a MONSTER and just does not give up. He finishes with 19 Pts, 13 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Stl and doesn’t take crap from anyone, that’s you Ron Artest. LaMarcus Aldridge got off to a quiet start but improved greatly in the second half and leads his team with 24 Pts, 11 Reb, 2 Stl and 4 Blk. Wesley Matthews played some great defensive on Kobe Bryant all night long and played even with three fouls and never fouled again. He collects 18 Pts on 7-11 shooting. Nic Batum was the spark early and the dagger late with 13 Pts, 4 Reb and 1-3 from downtown with the only make the dagger three in the fourth. And Andre Miller, who led the charge on every fast break, every decision and just did a great job finding guys open tonight, 12 Pts, 13 Ast and 2 Stl. Portland at one point shoot 56% from the field but drop to a modest 45%. They give the ball up only 9 times and never had to pay. They win the assist battle 28-14, steal the ball 8 times, score 20 of their points in the fast break and cash in on 44 in the paint. My, oh my!
Kobe Bryant who went crazy in the minutes before halftime went cold the rest of the way. An average 24 Pts (10-25 shooting), 4 Ast night but 4-8 from distance kept things interesting at halftime. The thorn in Portland’s side, Ron Artest collects 14 Pts, 8 Reb, 1 Stl and 1 Blk on 2-3 from distance. The only other Laker in double figures was Lamar Odom off the bench with 13 Pts, 14 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl and 1 Blk on 2-6 shooting from three. Pau Gasol collects 13 Reb as LA as a team out-rebound 52-41 and drill 11-25 from beyond the arc.
WHO WAS NOT
Portland’s bench was nowhere tonight. Despite Brandon Roy and his 5 Pts, 3 Reb and 3 Ast effort, no one else showed up. Rudy Fernandez again had nothing to show for except 2 Ast and 1 Stl and Patty Mills had 2 Pts on 1-6 shooting. Chris Johnson had 1 Reb. The Blazers shoot 6-21 from three, luckily half those came at times when it was needed most.
Los Angeles was killed tonight on the Portland fast break tonight. They allow to be beaten 20-6 and allow 44 Blazer points in the paint compared to 36. Lakers shoot 39% from the floor and turn the ball over 17 times. Andrew Bynum who set a new career high in rebounding the last few games only had 3 Pts, 6 Reb and fouls out with five minutes left in the fourth. Gasol was only held to 8 Pts and was creamed by Aldridge all night long. Those alley oop dunks will be in Gasol’s nightmares tonight.
Well even though the Lakers do win the series, it’s always a great feeling to send the Lakers back home with long faces and send those bandwagon Laker fans back to their houses where they belong. This is Rip City, and just knowing that we can beat the Lakers such a fashion tonight is just fantastic. With the win, Portland maintain their 6th seed out West, Memphis clinch the last spot with their win and New Orleans beat Phoenix so no one moved anywhere tonight. The Blazers get a rare weekend to bask in this great victory and will come out on Tuesday for their final home game of the regular season against Memphis. Till then, BEAT LA!
photo courtesy of nba.com/blazers