L.A. Lakers 89, Portland 86
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 17 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant
's slicing layup with 31
seconds left lifted the Los Angeles Lakers to an 89-86 triumph
over the Portland Trail Blazers.
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Playing at the Staples Center for the first time in more than
two weeks, Los Angeles got its second half off to a positive
start by surviving a tight game throughout. The game was
deadlocked 86-86 when Bryant penetrated through the lane, took a
bump from Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Bryant missed the ensuing free throw but Abdur-Rahim missed a
15-footer from the left corner with 13 seconds to go. Bryant
was fouled with seven seconds remaining and made 1-of-2 free
throws for a 3-point lead.
"It is not about my individual performances," said Bryant, who
battled finger and shoulder injuries in the first half of the
season. "I do not really care too much about that ... as long
as we get the 'W.'"
"(Kobe) played very well," Lakers coach Phil Jackson
thought his legs might get a little bit tired but he said it
was his shoulder that tightened up."
The Trail Blazers had a chance for the tying 3-pointer but Damon Stoudamire
's wild attempt in the waning seconds missed badly.
"We missed the shots, you know, that is all it came down to,"
Blazers forward Darius Miles
said. "We just missed the shots."
Bryant finished with 31 points and eight rebounds and fellow
All-Star Shaquille O'Neal
had 21 and 11. After an erratic first
half, the Lakers (32-19) find themselves second in the Pacific
Division and battling for home-court advantage in the first
round of the playoffs.
"We still got to get back on track and we will," O'Neal said. "Guys
are starting to get that look in their eyes and guys are starting
to play better."
"These games are always tough after the break because you probably
practiced once, maybe twice in a five- or six-day period," Lakers
guard Derek Fisher
said. "It is tough to get rhythm and be
consistent, but we did a good job."
led Portland with 17 points. Stoudamire was
6-of-16 from the field, including 2-of-8 from 3-point range.
Portland led 82-79 with 3:47 to go but Gary Payton
, who had
seven of his 15 points in the final quarter, buried a tying
3-pointer 19 seconds later.
Payton put the Lakers on top 84-82 with a driving layup but
Abdur-Rahim made a jumper with 2:42 remaining to knot the
contest. Bryant and Stoudamire exchanged baskets 22 seconds
apart, setting the stage for the final 31 seconds.
"They always make the plays," Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks
"They just continue to play. They never really look like they
get real flustered no matter what the score is. They make
plays. It is the sign of a good basketball team."
O'Neal, the Most Valuable Player of Sunday's All-Star Game
had 12 points and six rebounds in the opening quarter, but
Los Angeles led just 25-24 after 12 minutes.
The Lakers were ahead 43-40 at the half and pushed the lead to
70-60 in the final minute of the third quarter before allowing
Portland back into the game.