PORTLAND, Ore. — Kobe Bryant pumped his fist as he raced down the court in the final minutes, allowing himself a moment to celebrate a performance that was implausible even by his standards.
His Lakers teammates extended high-fives on the way to the timeout huddle, about the only way Bryant was leaving the court in a game his team had to have.
Bryant did plenty besides score during the Lakers’ 113-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at the Rose Garden, his season-high 47 points accompanied by eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals while playing all 48 minutes.
“MVP!” chants broke out from the pockets of Lakers fans here who celebrated their team’s first sweep of back-to-back games this season.
Bryant’s brilliance overshadowed Portland rookie Damian Lillard’s career-high 38 points and helped the Lakers assume control of their playoff destiny while handing the Trail Blazers a ninth consecutive loss.
“That’s what you try to do is you try to do whatever you can,” Bryant said of his all-around effort. “You don’t look for excuses, you don’t wait for anybody else to make rotations, you do it yourself and by doing it, it sets an example for everybody else to do the same thing.”
The Lakers (42-37) nudged their lead over Utah (41-38) to a full game in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Should the Lakers win their remaining three games, they will make the playoffs no matter what the Jazz does.
“This isn’t breathing room at all,” Bryant said. “I’m still on edge. I remember very well what Golden State did to us up there and also they let us down against Utah the other night, so I’m looking forward to getting some revenge” Friday when the Warriors come to Staples Center.
The Lakers’ second victory in 48 hours prevented them from making some unintended history, the team sweeping a back-to-back situation after coming up short in 15 previous tries this season. The Lakers have never gone a full season without winning games on consecutive days in their 65 seasons.
Bryant made sure his team was not relegated to a footnote, making 14 of 27 shots and all 18 free throws.
He fed Pau Gasol for a layup that broke a 100-100 deadlock and then drew a clear-path foul on Lillard after Steve Blake came up with a steal. Bryant made both free throws and followed with a 23-foot jumper that extended the Lakers’ cushion to 106-100.
“That’s what happens when you open your mouth and guarantee that we’re getting in the playoffs,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said of Bryant. “Now he has to do it, which is good.”
Blake came up with a pair of rebounds in the final two minutes and Gasol added the finishing touch with 53 seconds left when he threw an alley-oop pass to Dwight Howard for an emphatic slam.
Gasol scored 23 points on 11-for-15 shooting to go with nine assists and seven rebounds and Howard had 20 points and 10 rebounds to help the Lakers improve to 5-17 here since 2002.
Gasol called Bryant’s performance “bittersweet,” noting his nearly point-a-minute pace was “spectacular.”
“I’m a player that likes to see a little more ball movement and better balance,” Gasol said.
Missing two of its top four players in Nicolas Batum (shoulder) and J.J. Hickson (back), Portland started four rookies for the first time in franchise history and nearly ran the Lakers off the court while scoring 41 points in the first quarter.
The Trail Blazers endured a far more considerable slog from there, the older and slower visitors ultimately prevailing by tightening their defense and showing more pluck and endurance.
Might Bryant play the rest of the season without taking a break?
“I hope not,” he said, laughing. “But if I have to, I’m up to the challenge.”