The L.A. Lakers seemed to have busted out of their Rose Garden slump in the last year or two, but their longtime struggles on the Portland Trail Blazers' home court returned Thursday night in a 107-96 loss. Due to a triple-overtime Heat-Hawks contest that gradually morphed from a basketball game into a nationally televised filibuster, the late game's first half was seen by very few, but it favored the Lakers slightly. The teams pretty much traded baskets in the early going, with Andrew Bynum's lob-wrangling and inside finishing giving Los Angeles a four-point halftime lead.
Once the game hit television and returned from break, the Blazers seized the ball and the game. They took to doubling Bynum in the middle, scrambling to force turnovers, and bolting out in transition for easy baskets. And they didn't grow careless in their haste, notching just four turnovers for the entire game (one per quarter!) while capitalizing on 13 takeaways from the Lakers. All told, the third quarter was a 32-18 blowout for the Blazers, and they rode that momentum all the way to the double-digit win.
Gerald Wallace led the charge for Portland, careening his way to a crazy efficient 31 points on 19 shots. Raymond Felton didn't shoot well, but was instrumental in piloting that speedy third quarter, pushing the pace in transition and repeatedly creating for his teammates on the move. In the halfcourt, Felton was content to run a pinpoint pick-and-roll with LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points, 10 rebounds) or defer to Jamal Crawford, who shimmied his way to 17 points off the bench (including one thirty-foot bomb at the end of third that was just soooo Jamal Crawford).
With Bynum cooling off somewhat in the second half, Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 30 points despite an injured right wrist that was clearly smarting with every instance of contact (and there were many). Bynum, Bryant and Pau Gasol (19 points) got scant help from their supporting cast, which was without Josh McRoberts once more. While the three stars combined for 70 points, the other seven Lakers to take the floor could only scrap together 26. The team as a whole shot 0-11 from downtown and scored just four points in transition.
The Lakers' loss drops them to 4-4, while Portland's second straight win puts them at 5-1 and alone atop the Western Conference. The whole thing!