LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant scored 40 points, Dwight Howard had 19 points and 16 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers capped a trying week with a gritty 111-107 victory over the slumping Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Hours after longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss was buried, and a day after a moving memorial service punctuated by eulogies from Bryant and other franchise greats, the team got back to basketball with a much-needed victory at Staples Center.
Bryant scored 11 points in the final 5½ minutes and the Lakers won for the seventh time in 10 games. They remained ninth in the Western Conference playoff race, 3½ games behind Houston for the final spot with 26 remaining. Portland trails Los Angeles by 1½ games.
Howard, looking for his sixth rebounding title in seven seasons, came in averaging an NBA-best and career-high 11.8 boards per game. The Lakers are 19-12 when he gets double digits in rebounds, and 11 of those losses have come on nights when he grabbed 14 or more. They wasted 26 boards in a home loss to Denver on Jan. 6, and 20 in a Dec. 11 loss at Cleveland.
Antawn Jamison scored 16 points off the bench, helping to hand Portland its season-worst seventh straight loss. The Trail Blazers have lost five straight road games and 10 of their last 11 away from the Rose Garden.
J.J. Hickson had 22 points and 11 rebounds for Portland, and Nicolas Batum also scored 22. Two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 15 points in 34 foul-plagued minutes after picking up his fifth personal with 8 minutes remaining.
Damian Lillard added 19 points. All of Portland’s starters scored in double figures, while the bench produced just 14 points.
Portland led 82-80 after three quarters, and the lead changed hands five times before Steve Nash’s layup gave the Lakers a 107-105 lead with 1:44 to play. Bryant fumbled the ball out of bounds on the Lakers’ next possession, but the Blazers couldn’t capitalize and Bryant closed it out with four free throws in the final 13 seconds.
Hickson, who came in fifth in the NBA with a 56.5 field goal percentage, shot 8 for 10 in the first half and had 16 points — including a 20-footer with 2.6 seconds on the clock to give the Blazers a 55-53 lead at the break.
Howard had 15 points and eight rebounds in the first half.
Lakers forward Metta World Peace played almost 9½ minutes before taking his first shot, an airball on a 3-point attempt. But his next shot was a successful 3 that gave Los Angeles a 37-32 lead with 8:46 left in the second quarter.
Meyers Leonard, the Blazers’ 7-foot-1 backup center, picked up three fouls in his first 5½ minutes on the floor and finished with four points in 13 minutes.