Notebook: Lakers 111, Trail Blazers 107

Posted Feb 23, 2013 2:16 AM

Dan Arritt, for

THE FACTS: The Lakers can't take wins for granted anymore. They can't afford to show up unprepared, unmotivated or unhealthy. They had another reminder Friday night of just how difficult it is to beat an opponent, even on their own floor and even when Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard have standout games. Bryant scored 40 points and Howard finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds, just enough production for L.A. to secure a 111-107 victory against the Trail Blazers at Staples Center.

THE STAT: Bryant's fifth 40-point game this season is one short of the league lead held by Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City. It's also the most points he scored against the Trail Blazers since totaling 65 in March 2007. The only difference between this game and the other four in which he scored 40 this season, the Lakers won.

QUOTABLE: "I had to be a bit more assertive but at the same time make some plays for my team."
-- Kobe Bryant

TURNING POINT: The teams traded leads 11 times in the fourth quarter. Steve Nash put the Lakers on top for good, 107-105, with a pull-up one-footed jumper in the lane with 1:44 remaining. The Blazers had three possessions to tie or take the lead but missed twice and turned the ball over after a video review on the other. Bryant then finished off Portland by sinking four free throws in the final 12 seconds.

HOT: Bryant shot 15-for-23 from the floor in producing his highest-scoring game since netting 40 in a loss to the Nuggets on Dec. 26. It was also his most efficient shooting game this season when taking 20 or more shots. J.J. Hickson had a strong game for the Trail Blazers as well, shooting 11-for-15 and finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds. It's the first time since Hickson joined Portland last season that he has scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games.

NOT: Other than Nash's basket late in the game that gave the Lakers the lead for good, his shooting was strangely bad against the Trail Blazers. He finished 2-for-11 from the floor and scored four points, his lowest-scoring effort since he scored two in an injury-shortened game Oct. 31 in Portland. Nash, the NBA's all-time best free-throw shooter, even missed his only foul shot of the night, which followed a technical foul by Wesley Matthews with 2:35 left and the Lakers clinging to a two-point lead.

QUOTABLE II: "Steve was off tonight. He had a lot of pick-and-roll shots that he just missed, which is uncharacteristic of him."
-- Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni

GOOD MOVE: Wes Matthews was a game-time decision after missing Tuesday's loss against the Suns with left ankle and elbow injuries. He was visibly hobbling during the game, but Portland coach Terry Stotts still asked him to guard Bryant down the stretch. Bryant recognized the advantage and twice drove around Matthews for buckets in the final minutes. The second time resulted in a three-point play with 3:51 left that erased Portland's final lead.

QUOTABLE II: "We miss his toughness so it was good to have him back."
-- Terry Stotts on Matthews

BAD MOVE: Shortly after Portland's leading scorer on the season, LaMarcus Aldridge, gave the Trail Blazers their biggest lead, 71-64, midway through the third quarter, he was whistled for his fourth foul after bumping Nash out near the 3-point line. That sent him to the bench and the Lakers responded with a 10-4 run to make it a one-possession game again. Aldridge was then called for foul No. 5 after jockeying for position under his own basket with Metta World Peace. He turned and had words for the referee, earning a technical foul with 8:02 remaining in the game. Aldridge stayed in this time, but didn't score another point and finished with 13.

NOTABLE: Howard did not take any warmup shots at halftime after reinjuring his shoulder late in the second quarter. He emerged from the locker room just before the third quarter began and contributed four points and eight rebounds in the second half. ... Bryant entered the game 1-for-34 from 3-point range in his last 15 games. He shot 1-for-3 against Portland. ... Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who died Monday following a long illness, was buried earlier in the day in Hollywood Hills.

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Sunday @ Dallas, Monday @ Denver, Thursday vs. Minnesota. For the Trail Blazers, Sunday vs. Boston, Wednesday vs. Denver, Saturday vs. Minnesota.