Hearing his name announced in the Lakers’ starting lineup at Staples Center for the first time topped everything else Ramon Sessions has experienced in his five NBA seasons.
Sessions gave the sellout crowd the kind of dominating performance they were waiting to see in his fifth game with Los Angeles, getting 20 points and 11 assists in a 103-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
”I came to the shootaround this morning and they told me I was in the lineup and that I should just be ready to go at the beginning of the game,” Sessions said. ”When they named me the starter, I called my mom and talked to my close cousin. It’s a dream come true, to have my name called like that at the Staples Center.
”My career’s been up and down — starting and coming off the bench. But this is the biggest thing so far, being on a winning team, a playoff-bound team, a championship-bound team. It’s definitely a great experience, and I’m going to enjoy it.”
Sessions, 25, was obtained from Cleveland along with Christian Eyenga on March 15 for Luke Walton and Jason Kapono. The fifth-year veteran made his first three shots and was 6 for 10 from the field in 35 minutes after averaging 25 minutes, 12 points and six assists in his four games off the bench.
Andrew Bynum had 28 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who finished with a season-high 33 assists and outrebounded the Blazers 53-29 to increase their Pacific Division lead to 3 1/2 games over the idle Clippers. Kobe Bryant scored 18 points and Pau Gasol had 16 rebounds and 10 points, as every Lakers starter finished in double-digit scoring.
”Ramon’s a big part of it. With the talent level he has, it’s a pretty easy transition for him,” Bryant said. ”He got in the paint and was creating opportunities for everybody else. Offensively, we were executing things extremely well and running things with more continuity. We made a lot of shots, just trying to play the percentages, and we made them take ‘defensive’ shots.”
Sessions became the first Lakers point guard to record a double-double since Jan. 11, 2009, when Derek Fisher had 13 points and 11 assists in 42 1/2 minutes against the Miami Heat in a 108-105 victory at Staples Center.
”The guys in here believe in me, and they were just telling me to be aggressive and play my game,” Sessions said. ”I can’t really say what I thought the numbers will be night in and night out, but tonight I was just feeding off Pau, Bynum and Kobe. They make my job a lot easier out there. Everybody’s paying those guys a lot of attention, so I just sneak around and take what they give me. When you move the ball like that, it’s tough to lose games in this league.”
Steve Blake went back to a reserve role, scoring two points in 18 minutes. He started the previous four games following the departure of Fisher at the trading deadline, averaging almost 23 minutes and totaling just five points and 13 assists while shooting 2 for 12.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Trail Blazers with 29 points on 12 for 18 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Forward J.J. Hickson made his Blazers debut after being claimed off waivers from Sacramento on Wednesday, scoring 14 points in 22 minutes.
”I haven’t had a chance to practice with the team, but I know most of the plays and all of our separate sets,” Hickson said. ”We didn’t do anything difficult, as far as the offense goes. I was just playing off my teammates.”
Portland trailed by as many as 12 late in the first quarter before Wesley Matthews tied it 48-48 on a three-pointer late in the second, capping the Blazers’ 18-6 run, but they never did take the lead.
”The effort was there. There was no question about that, and we were in the game,” Aldridge said. ”We were battling, and they definitely didn’t have an easy game tonight. It wasn’t a blowout.”
Jamal Crawford had a chance to put Portland ahead with 25 seconds left in the third, but missed a 19-footer. He got another chance to give the Blazers the lead, but Matt Barnes hustled back after a Lakers turnover and blocked Crawford’s fast-break layup with 9:57 left in the game.
Barnes then hit a three-pointer 43 seconds later, and the Lakers eventually were able to put the stubborn Blazers away — but not before Portland cut the martin to a single point three different times on threes by Crawford, Matthews and Raymond Felton during a four-minute stretch.
It was the third game this season in which the Lakers never trailed. The other two were against Minnesota.
”Portland was playing hard and they didn’t give up, but we kept battling,” Sessions said. ”We were able to get one or two more stops than them and get a couple more buckets at the offensive end. It was closer than it looked.”
NOTES: Bryant has 29,235 points and needs 43 more to overtake Michael Jordan for second place on the career list for most points scored with one franchise during the regular season. Karl Malone, who ended his career with the Lakers in 2003-04 after 18 seasons with Utah, had 36,374 points with the Jazz. … The Lakers began a stretch in which they will play six of seven at home. They are 20-4 at Staples Center, including a loss to the Clippers in which the Lakers were the designated visiting team. … Sessions is playing for his fourth NBA team in five years. In his 89 previous NBA starts, he averaged 14.8 points and 7.4 assists. He made a career-high 39 starts in 2008-09 with Milwaukee and 38 with the Cavaliers last season. … Bryant is averaging 27.2 points in 17 games against the Trail Blazers since scoring 65 against them in a 116-111 overtime win at Staples Center on March 16, 2007 — the first of four consecutive games in which he scored 50 or more en route to his second straight scoring title. Bryant is vying for a third with a league-best 28.5. … Bryant was 5 for 17 from the field. The Lakers are 8-1 when he’s attempted fewer than 20 shots. They are 26-18 this season when Bryant misses at least 10 shots and 1-7 when he’s missed more than 16 in a game. … Portland is 2-3 since Kaleb Canales replaced Nate McMillan as head coach and starters Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace were traded. … Portland was 8 for 20 on free throws, one night after converting all 25 attempts in a 97-93 home win against Memphis.