Trail Blazers 114, Lakers 108

Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Nearly blowing a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter didn't sit well with the Portland Trail Blazers, even though they hung on to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers 114-108 Sunday.
"I thought we could have done a better job holding on to our lead," said Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who finished with 26 points, nine assists and five rebounds. "But we weathered the storm and found a way to win the game, so I'm happy with that."
Lillard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge led the way as the Trail Blazers disappointed a sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center.
Aldridge scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while guard Wes Matthews had 17 points. Center Robin Lopez had 12 points and 12 rebounds as Portland (14-3) bounced back from having its 11-game winning streak snapped by the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.
Still, Lillard said there is room for improvement.
"We got to find a way to stay consistent," he said. "When things are going well, we tend to kind of ease up and play a little bit loose instead of tightening up and putting teams away. Once teams get fired up and get back in the game, then our intensity rises again. But we've got to find a keep it at that high level like the best teams in the league."
Forward Xavier Henry led the Lakers (9-9) with a career-high 27 points, converting nine of his 12 shots from the floor, including two of four 3-point attempts. Guard Jodie Meeks scored 20 points and forward Nick Young delivered 17 points off the bench. Point guard Steve Blake contributed 13 points and nine assists. Center Robert Sacre had a career-best 12 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes, aiding the Lakers' inside game as coach Mike D'Antoni benched power forward Pau Gasol in the fourth quarter.
Portland started fast. The Blazers jumped to a 19-2 lead less than six minutes into the opening quarter. However, the Lakers replied with a 22-13 run, cutting the margin to 32-24 heading into the second.
Portland held a 53-50 lead at halftime.
In the third, the Blazers took command again as Lillard scored 11 of his points and Matthews added nine. After a layup by Meeks pulled the Lakers within 57-56 with 10 minutes remaining, Portland went on an 18-6 surge for a 75-62 advantage after a layup by Lillard with 5:46 left in the quarter. The Blazers increased the margin to 94-74 heading into the fourth as they outscored the Lakers 41-24 in the third.
Los Angeles rallied in the fourth.
The Lakers went on a 21-3 run to close the gap to 97-95 on a layup by Meeks with 4:20 left in the game. Forward Shawne Williams tipped in a missed free throw by Henry to pull the Lakers to within 99-98 with 3:40 remaining, but the Blazers hit some key buckets down the stretch to prevail.
"I was disappointed how quickly they did it and how they did it because I thought we got a little loose with the ball," Portland coach Terry Stotts said of the Lakers' comeback. "They were making some good aggressive plays."
Lillard's 3-pointer with 2:53 to go extended Portland's lead back to four points, and Matthews hit a 3-pointer with 1:20 left to push the margin to 109-102.
Gasol missed 12 of his 15 shots and managed just six points in almost 25 minutes.
"Robert (Sacre) was playing really well, and the unit that was out there was playing really well," Gasol said. "We know that Mike likes to stick with units that are functioning and making runs, and it doesn't matter who's on the bench or on the floor. I wasn't upset because we were making a big run and I wasn't having a particularly good night."
NOTES: Whether SG Kobe Bryant returns Friday against the Sacramento Kings will depend on how his body responds to practice this week, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said Sunday. "We'll see Tuesday and go from there," D'Antoni said. "Three days of practice, then we'll evaluate him. It might happen; it might not. The only way we will be able to evaluate is to let these three days go by and check him out." ... Lakers PG Steve Nash will return to practice Tuesday after being sidelined the past 10 games due to nerve root irritation in his back. ... Los Angeles reserve PG Jordan Farmar left Sunday's game late in the first quarter with a moderate left hamstring strain and did not return. ... Portland went 13-2 in November, tying a franchise record for most wins in that month. The Blazers compiled a 13-3 mark in November 1999.