Blazers hand Lakers fourth straight loss
LaMarcus Aldridge teased Gerald Wallace about how the Portland crowd responded when Wallace refused to back down against the Los Angeles Lakers.
''They chanted your name so loud, I started chanting with them,'' Aldridge said. ''Ger-ald Wall-ace.''
Aldridge had 24 points and 11 rebounds, but Wallace — with his physical play and his refusal to get rattled even when pestered by Ron Artest — got the Rose Garden cheers in the Trail Blazers' 93-86 victory over the Lakers on Friday night.
Wallace finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers, who helped prevent the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers from locking up the second seed in the Western Conference.
Kobe Bryant had 24 points in the Lakers' fourth straight loss.
''These guys just don't want to play hard right now,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson lamented. ''I hate to have this setup going into the playoffs when we're just not playing hard.''
Artest hit a pair of three-pointers that pulled the Lakers to 82-73 late. Aldridge then made a jumper, but Bryant had a pair of layups that narrowed it to 84-77.
Portland answered with Nicolas Batum's three and Wallace's layup that extended the lead to 89-77 and all but sealed the win with 1:14 left.
Andre Miller finished with 12 points and 13 assists for Portland, which led by as many as 24 points.
''You can't put too much on one game,'' Aldridge said. ''But whenever you can beat the Lakers, the defending champs, it's always a good game.''
A victory by the Lakers combined with a loss by the Mavericks on Friday would have secured Los Angeles the West's No. 2 seed.
Bryant said the Lakers would, ''have a talk.''
''Our guys look a little tired, a little sluggish," he said. ''Hopefully we can turn it around.''
The Blazers were in a tangle with Memphis and New Orleans for seeding at the bottom of the conference. The team that finishes eighth will face San Antonio in the opening round.
Both the Hornets and Grizzlies won Friday night, but Portland's victory kept the Blazers in the sixth spot with two games left. The Blazers were coming off a 98-87 victory at Utah the night before.
Portland was without center Marcus Camby, who banged his head on the floor in a collision with David Lee in a loss to the Warriors on Tuesday night. Camby, who strained his neck, has now missed two games.
Los Angeles center Andrew Bynum missed shootaround early Friday because of a stomach ailment, but was in the starting lineup at gametime.
The Blazers took an early 19-14 lead in the first quarter, but the Lakers came back to go up 31-26 on Shannon Brown's long jumper from near the top of the arc.
Portland would respond with a 19-2 run that gave the Blazers a 45-33 lead with 3:19 to go before the break.
Bryant almost single-handedly kept the Lakers in it, scoring 18 first-half points, including a three-pointer that closed the gap to 53-47 at the half.
Wesley Matthews' running jumper, off a skillful pass from Andre Miller, put Portland up 59-47. The Blazers extended the lead to 70-50 on Aldridge's dunk.
The Lakers closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run to narrow it to 74-62 on Brown's layup.
There were some tense moments in the final quarter when words were exchanged between Artest and Wallace. The fans at the Rose Garden cheered for Wallace, who came to the Blazers in a trade at the deadline with the Charlotte Bobcats.
''It was a physical ball game,'' said Wallace, who's known by the nickname "Crash."
''I wasn't going to back down on him.''
Artest responded by hitting his back-to-back threes.
''It's always a surprise to get beat like that,'' Bryant said. ''They took advantage of us.''
NOTES: Bryant had four threes in the first half, but finished 10 of 25 from the floor. ... Trail Blazers great Terry Porter, now a part of the franchise's broadcast team, celebrated his 48th birthday on Friday. ... The Lakers lost four straight earlier this season from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. ... Bynum fouled out with 2:46 left. ... The Lakers had 17 turnovers to Portland's nine.