Published March 20, 2011
LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 22 points in a dynamic fourth quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from behind in the final three minutes for their 12th win in 13 games, 84-80 over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
Derek Fisher made back-to-back steals to put the Lakers ahead with 1:56 to play before hitting a clinching jumper with 10 seconds left. Bryant did the rest despite his sprained ankle and sore jaw, highlighted by a picture-perfect fallaway jumper with 32 seconds to play.
The Lakers managed a late surge despite playing without starting center Andrew Bynum, who was suspended two games by the NBA on Sunday for his flagrant foul on Minnesota's Michael Beasley two days earlier.
Nicolas Batum scored 22 of his 25 points in the first three quarters for the Blazers, whose three-game winning streak ended with a fourth-quarter flop, scoring just 14 points on 5-for-18 shooting.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points in Bynum's absence down low, while Marcus Camby had 10 rebounds before hobbling off the court with an undisclosed injury in the final minutes. With three straight losses to the Lakers, Portland lost the season series with Los Angeles for the first time since 2004-05.
Although their last two wins haven't exactly been works of art, the Lakers formally clinched a playoff berth earlier Sunday when the Utah Jazz lost to Houston, and this victory wrapped up their fourth consecutive Pacific Division title and 50-victory season.
In Bynum's absence, Portland outrebounded the Lakers 45-35 and nursed a steady lead throughout the second half after making a 15-0 run spanning halftime, holding the Lakers without a field goal for 6½ minutes.
But Bryant's acrobatic layup pulled Los Angeles to 74-72, and Bryant dunked after a steal by Fisher to even it at 76 with 2:20 to play.
Fisher made another steal on the next possession and drove for a layup to put the Lakers ahead. After Bryant's jumper with 1:11 left put the Lakers up by four points, Ron Artest got a technical foul from referee Dan Crawford after exchanging shoves down low with Gerald Wallace.
Lamar Odom had 16 points and 11 rebounds while starting in Bynum's place, and Pau Gasol added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was disappointed by the league's decision on a two-game suspension for Bynum, who was ejected after turning his shoulder and sending Beasley crashing to the court during the Lakers' win last Friday. Jackson said he doesn't understand the NBA's logic in its decisions.
Bryant showed no ill effects early from his sprained ankle and a sore jaw resulting from a head-to-head collision with Minnesota's Martell Webster. The All-Star game MVP scored 10 points in the first half, but the Lakers missed Bynum's defensive presence and even his scoring in the first half, getting just eight points apiece from Gasol and Odom.
Portland took its first lead on Aldridge's layup 53 seconds before halftime. Batum went 8 for 10 for 19 points in the first half, hitting a 3-pointer in the final minute to stake the Blazers to a 48-44 lead.
Matt Barnes banked in a 3-pointer from a step inside the half-court line at the third-quarter buzzer, trimming the Blazers' lead to 66-62.
NOTES: Odom has started 33 games for the Lakers this season, while Bynum has started 37. Bynum missed the first 28 games while recovering from offseason knee surgery. ... The Lakers have reached the playoffs in 33 of the last 35 seasons, missing the postseason only in 1993-94 and 2004-05. ... Fans near courtside included Bruce Willis, Will Ferrell, David Arquette and Andy Garcia.