Kobe Gets 47 and Rare Win in Portland
When one of the greatest players in NBA history, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, puts up 47 points and plays the entire 48 minutes, willing his team to a huge win, you have to tip your cap.
That was Kobe Bryant on Wednesday night at the Rose Garden.
It was the first time in Kobe's career that he'd played the entire game, in a non-overtime game, on the road. He was brilliant.
The Rose Garden has been his nemesis, and the Lakers, who had won just six of the last 31 games they've played in Portland, had to have this game. This late push for the final playoff spot in the west was basically on the line, as it's going to likely be in their final three games, and Kobe was at his best.
The Blazers, who started four rookies, did themselves proud in this game. We've talked about everyone's distain for moral victories, so we won't call it that. But, they went down swinging, and that's all you can ask. And, Damian Lillard? What more could be possibly be asked of him?
Lillard carried this young Portland team all night, and nearly carried them to the victory. He ended with a career-high 38 points, and did that while being the entire focus of the Laker defense.
They put Steve Blake on him, they put Kobe on him, and even tried Metta World Peace on him. Lillard hit 5 of his 11 three-point attempts, ended with nine assists, recorded three steals, and turned the ball over only two times. That's a pretty amazing number, given the pressure and attention he was getting all night.
The Blazers led early by as many as 12, fell behind by 7 in the third quarter, but reclaimed the lead, and fought the Lakers into the final minutes before finally falling 113-106. The Laker defense finally began to take its toll on Portland, as they ended up shooting just 6 for 23 in the 4th quarter. Three huge offensive rebounds in the final few possessions ended up sealing the deal for the Lakers.
The first half was all about offense, for both teams, and was mostly simply Kobe vs. Lillard. Kobe's 17 first-quarter points was matched by 17 from Lillard. At halftime Bryant had 28, and Lillard had 25. Through three quarters Kobe had 39 and Lillard had 34. In other words, Lillard went toe to toe with greatness, and nearly helped his team to the win.
The Lakers now move a full game ahead of Utah for the final playoff spot in the west. They have three games remaining, and all will be home games. They'll host Golden State, San Antonio, and Houston. Utah hosts Minnesota, plays at Minnesota, and then finishes the season at Memphis. If the Jazz win all three, the Lakers have to win all three.
If the teams end tied, the Jazz get the playoff spot because they won the season series. In other words, by winning in Portland, the Lakers control their own destiny. Win out and they're in. Slip up, and Utah can reclaim the spot with three victories.
A couple of notes on Lillard, who had gone five-straight games without a game of 20+ points before this one. He became the first NBA player this season to record 38 points, 9 assists, and 3 steals in a game. If there was any doubt that he'd make it a clean sweep in the Rookie of the Month awards, this likely put that to bed.
Kobe tweeted out after the game, "Lillard is the real deal." That's pretty high praise. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after the game, about Lillard "that's about as good as you can get. That's about as good a rookie as I've ever seen."
So, even if the Blazers didn't beat the Lakers, they've got that going for them- which is nice.