No rain in Portland, but Lakers can’t stop skidding in 93-86 loss to Trail Blazers
Phil Jackson couldn’t blame the rain, his usual excuse whenever the Lakers lose up here, which is often.
Friday was an entirely sunny day, forcing the Lakers’ coach to be more critical in his analysis after another confounding loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, 93-86, at the Rose Garden.
The team that went 17-1 after the All-Star break has now lost four in a row for the second time this season, watching helplessly as Portland conducted a layup line, if not worse, against an alleged defense in front of the rim.
“These guys just don’t want to play hard right now,” Jackson said, later adding, “It’s no fun to go through these games like this when you’re coaching.”
The Lakers (55-24) are only a game ahead of Dallas for second place in the Western Conference and are tied with Boston and Miami for the NBA’s third-best record. They can no longer catch Chicago for second overall.
Andrew Bynum played despite what he called food poisoning. The entire team looked sick.
The Lakers surrendered 19 layups and eight dunks.
They’re apparently waiting for the playoffs to begin, but that’s not until next weekend. There might be more excruciating experiences against Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Sacramento between now and then.
“I hate to have this setup going into playoffs,” Jackson said. “I have no explanation for not getting back on defense, letting a team run out and turnovers. Giving up easy baskets is just a bad recipe for a loss.”
The Lakers had actually won their last two games up here, apparently solving their year-after-year problem that hit nine consecutive losses until last season.
Then they uncorked a vintage setback from about four years ago. Or three. Or five.
Kobe Bryant had 24 points on 10-for-25 shooting. Pau Gasol had eight points on clumsy four-for-11 shooting.
Bryant spoke crisply after the game, answering most reporters’ questions with only a few words.
Looking at the final three games, Jackson told the team it was important to show some professionalism. Bryant said he would also talk to his teammates.
“We’ll have a good conversation,” Bryant said. “It’s always a surprise to get beat like that.”
The Lakers trailed by as many as 24 in the third quarter. Their best surge cut it to seven on Bryant’s layup with 2:09 to play.
Before the game, Jackson said he would rather play Portland instead of New Orleans or Memphis in the first round because it was in the same time zone.
“That’s really a major part of traveling,” he said. “Portland really is the most advantageous in that regard.”
He might not feel the same way after Portland took advantage of the Lakers, who didn’t go down without a few words, and not the ones of wisdom.
Bryant picked up his 14th technical foul after slamming the ball down when called for a three-second violation in the fourth quarter. If he gets two more technicals before the end of the regular season, he will be suspended for one game.
Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 11 rebounds while playing center in place of injured Marcus Camby.
Guard Wesley Matthews had 18 points as Portland dominated the Lakers in fastbreak points, 20-6.
“If this is a team we face in the playoffs, we’ve got to make a conscious effort to get back” on defense, Bryant said.
Before the game, the Lakers had a slight lead over Boston and Miami, teams they hoped to beat in the standings. “We’re still interested in that,” Jackson said beforehand.
Interested but not inspired by it, apparently.
Motivation might not come until next weekend.
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