NBA: Like the Northwest rain, Lakers continue to drop in Portland
By Mike Bresnahan
Los Angeles Times
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Los Angeles Lakers have another game scheduled in Portland next month, but at this point, really, why bother making the trip?
It’s uncanny, it’s unfathomable and more than anything else, it’s fully predictable that the Lakers will lose at the Rose Garden, their latest setback a no-longer-surprising 107-98 loss to the Trail Blazers on Friday.
The Trail Blazers’ roster was ravaged, and it didn’t matter, the Lakers losing for a ninth consecutive time in Portland, still cursing under their breaths at the curse that won’t quit.
The Lakers haven’t won here since a tight 86-83 victory on Feb. 23, 2005. Since then, they’ve become semi-annual victims in Rip City, somehow losing 28 of their last 34 games in Portland.
“I just mark ’L’s on our season (schedule) right away when we come up here,” said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, smiling thinly.
Kobe Bryant had another poor shooting night, scoring 32 points on 14 of 37 attempts and the Lakers were undone by the Trail Blazers’ guards — Brandon Roy (32 points), Jerryd Bayless (21 points) and Andre Miller (17 points) picking them apart on drive after drive.
“Our defense just was not good enough the whole entire game,” Lamar Odom said. “They had four or five guys that were hot. Can’t allow that.”
Why so many problems in Portland, year after year?
“I don’t know,” Bryant said flatly. “They’re extremely well-coached, they play with a lot of energy here, they’re very comfortable shooting in this arena, particularly against us. They just play fantastic every time we see them.”
The Blazers made 32 of 39 free-throw attempts to only five of 10 for the Lakers.
Jackson said “there were some calls that were bad,” but he also saw too many Lakers’ three-point attempts, 28, for his liking.
He missed the Lakers’ last trip to Portland nine months ago because of painful swelling in his lower right leg, but he was reminded quickly what typically happens up here.
The Lakers trailed after the first quarter, 30-24, a mildly surprising development because Roy sat the last five minutes because of early foul trouble.
It got worse in the second quarter, the Lakers falling behind, 55-43, one play typifying everything: Bryant bent over to pick up a loose ball near the sideline, took his eyes off it too early and fumbled it out of bounds, to the delight of Trail Blazers fans.
The Lakers (28-8) were without Pau Gasol and Luke Walton, but the Trail Blazers (23-15) were without Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, Rudy Fernandez and Steve Blake.
“We wish Pau was available tonight so we could attack inside,” Jackson said wistfully before the game.
Gasol sat in street clothes at the end of the bench, missing his third consecutive game because of a hamstring injury. He almost surely would have helped, seeing how the Trail Blazers have been hit hard down low, losing centers Przybilla and Oden to season-ending injuries.
“This organization has a history of that since (Sam) Bowie and (Bill) Walton, etc.,” Jackson said. “You wonder, is it the weather? Or is it the water? Is it just the fate of a franchise? They’ve lost great centers, really good centers.”
Jackson has blamed everything from the cloudy weather to the referees in losses up here. On Friday, he said he would consider banning team trips to the Nike store in nearby Beaverton, where players often load up on free or discounted gear. He then said he was joking.
As usual, Trail Blazers fans were amped from the start, chanting “Beat L.A.” a few seconds after the national anthem was completed.
Then they held up “No Quit in Us” signs that were handed out ahead of time. They even have their own Mexican fast-food promotion up here, singing “Cha-lu-pa” as the Trail Blazers approached 100 points.
Nine in a row. Will it be 10 on Feb. 6?
“If you compared records, I suppose we’re the team that’s supposed to win the games,” Jackson said. “It’s kind of unusual that we haven’t been able to win well (here) because we do well on the road.”