The trend of resting Kobe Bryant has at times worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers, producing both the team’s most noteworthy win as well as its largest margin of victory.
Playing without him didn’t work out quite as well in Monday’s meeting with the streaking Portland Trail Blazers, so the Lakers might consider suiting him up when the teams meet again Sunday night in Los Angeles.
Bryant’s status remains unpredictable, but he skipped a game to rest for the fifth time this season in Friday’s 101-84 home win over Orlando. He sat out for the first time in a 115-105 home victory over NBA-leading Golden State on Dec. 23. The Lakers (12-25) are 2-3 when he does so, and one of the losses was Monday’s 98-94 final in Portland.
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"We try to bring more energy when he’s out, play more up-tempo," Nick Young said after the Orlando win.
That played into Damian Lillard’s hands against the Blazers (29-8). Portland’s point guard scored 39 points in Monday’s meeting and is averaging 31.4 in his last five against Los Angeles.
Should Bryant play, he’ll be looking to recover from one of the worst games of his career. Bryant was limited to four points on 2-of-12 shooting in Wednesday’s 114-89 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s missed the team’s last four games against Portland, but the two before that resulted in 40- and 47-point efforts, 58.0 percent shooting and a 27-of-27 mark from the foul line.
Despite the Lakers winning twice in their last four games, they’re shooting just 41.0 percent in that stretch. They’ve limited teams to 40.7 percent in that time, though, with a rebounding differential of plus-10.7 in the past three.
Los Angeles held a 60-36 rebounding edge against Orlando after outdoing the Blazers 49-45 on the glass.
Jeremy Lin led the Lakers on Friday with 18 points as the reserve point guard has reached double figures in five straight games while averaging 14.8 points and shooting 51.0 percent. In Bryant’s first three games out of the lineup, Lin managed 7.3 points and shot 29.6 percent. Against Portland and Orlando, he’s been at 16.0 points and 45.5 percent.
"I think he’s getting more comfortable, and I think his confidence is coming back," coach Byron Scott told the team’s official website.
The win over the Magic opened a four-game homestand for the Lakers, and they now have a shot at winning a third straight there.
Lillard didn’t come anywhere close to his production against the Lakers with 16 points in Saturday’s 103-92 home win over Orlando, but the Blazers are still in position to win at least four straight for the third time in a month. It adds up to a 12-2 span during which they’ve held teams to 42.3 percent shooting and 28.4 from 3-point range.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 25 points, but was critical of his team after it allowed a 19-point lead to momentarily slip away. After turning the ball over 16 times total in the previous two wins, Portland gave it away 20 times against the Magic.
Aldridge also felt Monday’s game could have been crisper.
"I thought we gave them a lot of easy things last game, and we didn’t really take anything away," Aldridge told the team’s official website. "I think everybody learned from that game. I think this game will be better for us."
Though the Blazers have won their last two on the road against the Lakers, Los Angeles has won six straight and 11 of 12 in this series at Staples Center with Bryant in the lineup.