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Lakers 113, Trail Blazers 106

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND -- Kobe Bryant bombed in a season-high 47 points as the Los Angeles Lakers broke a tight game open late in a 113-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night at the Rose Garden.

Bryant also had eight rebounds and five assists for the Lakers (42-37), who have a one-game lead over Utah (41-38) for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference with three games to play.

Pau Gasol contributed 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and Dwight Howard had 20 points and 10 boards for the winners.

Rookie Damian Lillard scored a season-high 38 points with nine assists for the Trail Blazers (33-45), who lost for the ninth straight time.

L.A. used a 10-0 run to start the third quarter to go in front 71-69 for its first lead of the game. The Lakers extended the spurt to 17-2 for a 78-71 edge before the Blazers clawed back with a 7-0 roll of their own to tie the score at 78-78.

Luke Babbitt's fourth 3-pointer of the game gave Portland the lead at 88-86 late in the quarter. The Blazers took a 90-88 advantage into the final period.

Portland was on top 95-90 with nine minutes left, but the Lakers, with Bryant heading the charge, outscored the Blazers 16-5 over the next five minutes to seize a 106-100 lead with 4:09 to play.

The Blazers led 69-61 after a rollicking first half that saw both teams light up the scoreboard and Bryant and Lillard each take star turns.

Bryant had 28 points in the half, sinking 9 of 17 shots from the field and 10 of 10 at the line. Lillard scored 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting -- 4 for 7 from 3-point range -- and handed out seven assists.

LaMarcus Aldridge had a big half, too, with 13 points and seven rebounds, making 5 of 6 shots from the field.

The Blazers shot .605 from the field and .571 on 3-point attempts while the Lakers fired at a .571 clip in the half.

With Lillard taking the lead, the Blazers came out of the chute smoking, shooting .681 from the field en route to a 41-33 lead after one quarter. They jumped in front 10-2 in the first two minutes and led by as many as 12 points in the quarter.

Lillard had 17 points and seven assists, knocking down 6 of 8 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Bryant kept the Lakers close by scoring 17 points in the quarter.

L.A. closed the gap to 48-46 midway through the second quarter, but the Blazers got another burst, taking a 63-52 lead with 3:20 left before halftime.

NOTES: Steve Nash (hamstring) sat out his fifth straight game for the Lakers. Coach Mike D'Antoni isn't sure if the veteran point guard will return for Friday's date with Golden State. "He's going to shoot for it, but that doesn't mean he will," D'Antoni said. "He'll be back pretty soon." Asked if Nash is frustrated, the first-year coach replied, "The whole locker room is frustrated. We should be a lot better than we are. (Nash) has been injured more than probably his whole career. But he'll keep working. Hopefully we can get in the playoffs and have a good run and turn that frustration into something good." ... Metta World Peace, who returned to play 15 minutes in Tuesday's win over New Orleans just 12 days after knee surgery, will come off the bench again for the Lakers. ... Portland was without three injured starters -- Nicolas Batum (shoulder), JJ Hickson (back) and Wesley Matthews (ankle). Coach Terry Stotts started four rookies -- Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver and Will Barton -- with All-Star power forward Aldridge. "I want the guys to bring energy," Stotts said. "You have to play to your strengths. One of our strengths is our youthful energy (in front of) the home crowd. That's what I expect them to bring." ... Barton, who had 22 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals in Sunday's loss to Dallas, was expected to draw the initial assignment on Bryant. "I just want him to play," Stotts said. "That's what Will does best. He'll be enthusiastic about the opportunity. I don't think he'll shy away from the moment." ... Veteran small forward Sasha Pavlovic, who has played two minutes since Feb. 22, will be in the Blazers' rotation tonight. "We're thin at that spot," Stotts said. "As for Jared (Jeffries), Joel (Freeland) and Luke (Babbitt) in the frontcourt, we'll see how the game develops. It's all hands on deck."

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