The Rose Garden in Portland has always been one of the toughest places for the Lakers to play, but by the end of Wednesday night's game, there were "M-V-P!" chants for Kobe Bryant echoing throughout the building.
Bryant's stat line was tremendous on both ends of the court. Bryant scored 47 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and had five assists, three steals and four blocks as the Lakers managed to hold on to the 8th playoff spot, beating the Trail Blazers 113-106.
When dissecting the game as a whole, there were many factors that provided both teams chances to win the game.
Blocks: The Blazers really struggled protecting the rim. Although LaMarucs Aldridge is normally known as a great shot blocker (1.3 blocks per game), the Blazers failed to block a single Laker shot in this game.
The Lakers, on the other hand, recorded nine blocks, protecting the rim very well. Bryant led the team with four, Dwight Howard had three, and Pau Gasol had two. The blocks came up big down the stretch and contributed the Lakers pulling through.
Post presence: Portland's Aldridge had a monster game with 17 points and 16 rebounds and stayed energetic. His rebounding presence made it tough for the Lakers to attack the basket, but other than Aldridge, no other Portland player had more than five rebounds.
The Lakers' post players kept the floor spread and were often the center of the offense. Gasol had another tremendous game with 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. He was able to create his own shot, attack the basket and set up plays for his teammates. The main beneficiary of Gasol's assists was Howard, who had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Gasol and Howard seemed very in-sync down the stretch.
Superstar players: Portland's rookie from Weber State, Damian Lillard, was scorching hot, scoring a career-high 38 points, including five three-pointers, and dishing out nine assists. Lillard was hot very early, scoring 17 points and dishing out seven assists in the first quarter. He set the tempo for the team, and the Blazers made it rain from beyond the arc, draining 12 three-pointers.
Bryant had the answer though, as he dropped 47 points, setting a new scoring record for the Rose Garden. From the moment Lillard caught fire, Bryant began to match him, making sure his team stayed with the Blazers every step of the way. By the end of the first quarter, Bryant also had 17 points.
Scoring is not all he did, however. Bryant kept his teammates involved and dished out five assists in the process. Bryant was fully aware of how much his team needed him, playing all 48 minutes of the game. Down the stretch, Bryant made the clutch buckets that were the difference in the Lakers win.
The Lakers now move to a full game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Lakers suit up again Friday against the Golden State Warriors.
For additional NBA and Lakers news/updates, you can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at: @MitchKunzler
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