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12/29/2012 2:13 AM EST
Surging Lakers rout Trail Blazers 104-87
LA LAKERS 104, PORTLAND 87
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant's streak of 10 straight 30-point
games ended only because he spent the fourth quarter on the
bench alongside Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in a blowout win.
The way the Los Angeles Lakers are playing lately, Bryant has
reason to hope he'll spend less time cramming boxscores and more
time riding the pine.
Howard had 21 points and 14 rebounds, Bryant scored 27 points
and the Lakers never trailed in their sixth win in seven games,
104-87 over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Pau Gasol had 15 points and nine rebounds as the Lakers closed
out their 2012 schedule by climbing back to .500 (15-15) in
their rocky season. Los Angeles had little trouble rolling past
the Blazers, taking a 20-point lead in the first half and
methodically dissecting Portland's defense with another fluid
"It was just energy," Bryant said. "We're playing really well.
We've just got to keep it going."
The Lakers earned an easy fourth quarter with dominance in the
first three, when they resembled the offensive powerhouse
everybody expected to see in purple and gold this year.
"I'm a big believer that the ball will find energy," Lakers
coach Mike D'Antoni said. "If you put energy on the floor, you
end up with a good game."
Nash's playmaking again set an impressive tone for the Lakers,
who outrebounded the Blazers 52-44 and took a 27-point lead late
while scoring 23 fast-break points. Nash had 10 assists and six
points while playing just 27 minutes in his fourth game back
from a seven-week absence with a small fracture in his leg, the
result of a collision with Portland's Damian Lillard on Oct. 31
in Nash's second game with the Lakers.
"We're obviously still a new team," Nash said. "It's new to me.
I'm new to the offense. We're trying to figure it out. I think
we're growing more and more cohesive, but I've got a long way to
The biggest impact was made by Howard, who played with
noticeable urgency on both ends after a lackluster outing in
Denver two days ago, blocking three shots and even hitting four
straight free throws when Portland briefly played Hack-a-Howard
with the 50 percent foul shooter in the second quarter.
"We just came out and we played hard tonight from the
beginning," Howard said. "Our effort was there. We played
inside-out, ran the ball, and our defense was real good tonight.
And Pau was looking like (Dirk) Nowitzki out there. Pau Nowitzki
hit two 3s."
Yes, even Gasol appeared to have little trouble getting open
shots - including those two 3-pointers - despite playing with
plantar fasciitis in his right foot, a recently diagnosed
condition that will only get better with rest. The Lakers have
the weekend off before returning Tuesday against Philadelphia.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points before sitting out the final
minutes with a bruised chest for cold-shooting Portland, which
lost for just the second time in eight games. Los Angeles'
defense held Lillard, Portland's star rookie, to 11 points on
"They just outworked us from top to bottom and played harder
than us," Lillard said. "And because of how aggressive they
were, they made shots. They scored transition points, and
they're not even a running team."
Will Barton scored 11 points for Portland and Nicolas Batum
added 10. Aldridge kept the Blazers fairly competitive during
the first three quarters, but his teammates combined for
24-of-70 shooting and couldn't keep up after Aldridge sat down.
"It happened on a drive to the basket against Dwight when I
tried to dunk it," Aldridge said. "I was exposed, and I got hit
on a soft spot on my chest. I came down and I couldn't really
breathe. I'm a little sore and I'll probably be worse tomorrow,
but I'll be OK."
Portland hosts Philadelphia on Saturday in its final game before
the new year.
The Lakers came out with more energy and aggression than they
showed in Wednesday's defense-deficient loss at Denver, hitting
14 of their first 21 shots and jumping to a 12-point lead in the
first quarter. Los Angeles then made a 12-0 run to a 20-point
lead shortly before halftime, with Gasol hitting a 3-pointer
from straightaway to cap it.
At halftime, the Lakers retired the No. 52 jersey of Jamaal
Wilkes, the Hall of Fame scorer who won three of his four NBA
titles with the Lakers. Wilkes, a three-time All-Star with an
unorthodox jump shot, choked up while thanking his teammates and
fellow Lakers greats including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West,
Elgin Baylor and James Worthy, who all joined Wilkes for the
NOTES: G Wesley Matthews, the Blazers' fourth-leading scorer
with 15 points per game, missed his third straight game with an
injured left hip. ... Gasol made a 3-pointer in his third
straight game, a first in his NBA career. ... Fans received a
replica Wilkes jersey at the door, and director Penny Marshall
wore it in her courtside seat.
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