Bryant strikes vs. Blazers

Lakers star scores 37 points to lead L.A. to overtime win




PORTLAND — A bit of it was Nicolas Batum missing the alley-oop tip-in with just more than two minutes left in regulation. A smidgeon of it was LaMarcus Aldridge blowing the driving lay-up with just less than two seconds remaining in regulation.

Other morsels included Andre Miller’s clanked jumper and Wesley Matthews’ bricked 3-pointer that helped keep the Blazers scoreless for the final four minutes and 22 seconds of the fourth quarter.

But mainly, it was Kobe Bryant. The five-time champion living up to his billing. The reigning All-Star MVP staging such brilliant demoralization.

The Lakers star scored a game-high 37 points Wednesday, including the final four of regulation, helping transform a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit into a 106-101 overtime win against the Blazers.

His inauspicious first half blossomed into Hall-of-Fame worthy second as 28 of his points came in the game’s latter 29 minutes.

Bryant and LeBron James — widely considered the NBA’s two top players — have now combined for 81 points in their single games at the Rose Garden this year, each resulting in overtime losses for Portland.

It hurts. And the Blazers aren’t going to deny it.

“It’s tough, especially for me because I didn’t make plays down the stretch,” Aldridge said. “I had the ball in my hand a lot to close the game out.”

Aldridge tweeted after the game “my bad Portland, I have to make those shots to win the game!”

It’s true. Portland didn’t make any personnel changes on the eve of the trade deadline, but its identity hardly seemed the same.

Coming into the game, the Blazers (32-25) were riding a six-game winning streak, a run that included convincing victories over the Bulls and Hornets. It appeared as though their good fortune would continue before a blend of ineptitude and brilliance did them in.

Up 87-80 with 1:46 left, Portland watched the Lakers’ Ron Artest drill a 3-pointer to cut the lead to four. Then, Lamar Odom blocked Aldridge’s lay-up attempt. Bryant answered with a nine-footer. Two-point game. Then, Aldridge missed a driving lay-up. Bryant answered with a 15-footer with four seconds left. Tie game.

Aldridge then missed the aforementioned lay-up to send the game into overtime. Through three quarters he had 29 points on 12-of-15 shooting. Seventeen minutes later, he finished with 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting — not to mention two missed free throws in the final minute that could have cut the lead to one.

“They were coming basically at catch,” Aldridge added. “They never let me see the basket.”

The final score sullied what otherwise seemed to be a picturesque way for the Blazers to start the second half of the season. All-Stars Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony were each traded out of their division while Brandon Roy, Portland’s three-time All-Star, returned to the its lineup after missing 30 games.

Roy, who received a thunderous ovation from the Rose Garden crowd, finished with five points on 2-of-5 shooting.

“It felt good, being out there playing — just trying to get my flow back,” Roy said. “It’s kind of bittersweet. I was happy to be back, but I really would have liked to have won this game.”

Batum and Matthews each pitched in 22 points for the Blazers. Artest contributed 24 for the Lakers, including five 3-pointers.

The Lakers, who crushed Atlanta Tuesday night, improved to 10-2 this season on the second game of back-to-backs. The Blazers entered the game having beat Los Angeles in 9 of their last 10 games at the Rose Garden.