Lakers survive Blazers 111-107 as Kobe drops 40 points

Jeff Gross

The Lakers picked up an important win on their home floor against the Trail Blazers in a wild game. The Lakers were able to outlast the Blazers down the stretch and keep pace with the Rockets as they are in hot pursuit of the eighth seed in the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in an important game Friday night at Staples Center, final score 111-107. There wasn't the crisp execution the Lakers exhibited against the Boston Celtics Wednesday, looking much more like the under .500 team that we've seen throughout the season. Still, they managed to put together enough offense to cover for their shameful defense, and notched a win that keeps them on pace with the Houston Rockets, who also won their game tonight.

Kobe Bryant took on the scoring load. After starting the game mainly isolating his defender, Bryant came out slicing and penetrating to the rim in the second half. An inefficient start quickly turned into a great performance as he put the team on his back and carried them to a much needed victory. Bryant ended the night going 15-23 from the field while he poured in 40 points.

Steve Nash struggled making anything from the field, going only 2 for 11. Despite Dwight Howard setting strong screens to create space for Nash to navigate, his shots simply weren't dropping. Flat out, it was not his night, and that was only further emphasized when he completely botched a technical free throw in the final three minutes of the game. Still, he put in a clutch jumper just moments later that was crucial in steering the Lakers to victory.

Howard tweaked his shoulder, this time just before the end of the first half, and if there were any questions as to whether this will be a recurring issue even after a few weeks without an aggravation they were answered. The Lakers called a timeout to allow Howard to gather himself, Dwight took his free throws, and he went on to play through the remainder of the game. Howard looked good overall tonight. His defensive mobility is still and issue that is hurting the Lakers as a team, but he was dominant on the glass, and was setting impactful screens, Howard ended the night with 19 points and 16 rebounds for a double-double.

J.J. Hickson was unstoppable tonight for the Blazers. Yes, those words were strung together and are entirely true. Hickson had a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. He was all over the court, continually getting in the paint for his buckets. When he wasn't rocking the rim, he was stretching the floor hitting jumpers. A little bit of everything from a player the Blazers were unable to pawn off for a second round draft pick before the trade deadline passed.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 points while going 6-19 from the floor. Metta World Peace was the primary defender on Aldridge and was physical enough with him to make up for the height mismatch. All of the Blazers' starters scored in double digits, but their bench was only able to produce 14 points total. Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks chipped in 26 points for the Lakers off the bench.

Through the fourth quarter the teams exchanged big shot after big shot. In the end the Lakers prevailed while the Blazers ran out of gas in this drag race. An ugly win, but an important win. The Lakers now travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks in an equally critical game in their hunt for the playoffs.

- Drew Garrison

- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN

- Check out Blazers Edge for their phenomenal coverage of the Blazers.

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