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Despite 'off night,' Bryant leads Lakers past Blazers

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- The ailing Portland Trail Blazers, losers of six straight heading into their matchup at the Los Angeles Lakers, could've used a bit of relief Friday night.

Instead they got a dose Kobe Bryant. All of him.

Bryant had 40 points and sealed the game at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter as the Los Angeles Lakers eked past the visiting Portland Trail Blazers 111-107 on Friday night at Staples Center.

Bryant scored 11 points in the first quarter, Dwight Howard added 10 in the second, and Bryant came back with 18 in the third and nine in the fourth, finishing with 40 on 15-for-23 field-goal shooting and 9-for-9 free throws.

"I had to be a little more assertive but at the same time, make plays for my team," Bryant said. "I had somewhat of an off-shooting night, but I've been having off-shooting nights for the last month, so it's understandable and we all got through it."

After Bryant committed his fifth turnover of the night with less than 30 seconds left, Metta World Peace played strong defense and forced LaMarcus Aldridge into an awkward fade-away attempt, which clanked off the rim. Bryant then hit four straight free throws to preserve the win.

Behind Bryant and Howard, Los Angeles survived a poor shooting night. The Lakers shot just 40-for-85 from the field -- including 2 of 11 by point guard Steve Nash -- and 33 percent from 3-point range.

"It's great to win when you don't play your best," Nash said, "when you don't have you're A-game. That's what it's all about."

Bryant had 40 points on 15-for-23 field-goal shooting and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line. He also had six rebounds and four assists.

"(Bryant) did what his team needed tonight," said Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 15 points but shot just 6-for-19 from the field. "He made plays, they went to him down the stretch, and he came through for them."

Howard finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds and World Peace and Earl Clark each added 11.

While the Lakers featured a two-man show for much of the game, the Trail Blazers offered a family affair.

All five Portland starters scored in double-figures, led by J.J. Hickson's 22 points, but the Trail Blazers' bench was outscored 26-14. Nicolas Batum had 20 points and eight rebounds, star rookie Damian Lillard had 19 points and seven assists and Hickson added 11 rebounds for Portland.

"I was glad the way our team fought," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "We've had a rough stretch and came out and played aggressively, pushed the tempo and did a lot of good things out there. I thought we played well enough to win the game, but unfortunately we didn't."

NOTES: Portland acquired Oklahoma City's Eric Maynor on Thursday in exchange for the draft rights to Georgios Printezis. The Trail Blazers subsequently waived guard Ronnie Price. ... Los Angeles center Pau Gasol remains out with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. Jordan Hill (left hip surgery) is also out for the Lakers. ... Portland's Wesley Matthews played despite being a game-time decision with an ankle injury. Elliott Williams (left Achilles tendon) missed the game for the Blazers. ... The two teams split their earlier two matchups this season, with both teams winning at home. Portland defeated Los Angeles 116-106 on Oct. 31, at the Rose Garden, and the Lakers won 104-87 on Dec. 28. ... Los Angeles won the last two season series over Portland after claiming just two from 1990-2009. ... Nash, who passed Magic Johnson for fourth on the all-time assists list Wednesday against Boston, trails Mark Jackson for third by less than 200 assists. At his current pace, he'll pass Jackson by the end of the season.
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