NBA News Wire
Lakers edge Blazers on Johnson’s late hoop
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Los Angeles Lakers made the plays — at the offensive end, then at the defensive end — in the closing seconds Monday night.
First there was forward Wesley Johnson basket off a lob pass with 6.4 seconds left. Then there was guard Jodie Meeks’ lock-down defense on Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
The result was a 107-106 victory Monday night at the Moda Center, the second straight win for the Lakers (21-39).
Center Pau Gasol scored 22 points and Meeks added 21 for the Lakers, who won only three of their previous 17 games before beating the Sacramento Kings on Friday.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points for Portland, and Lillard scored 20. Blazers center Robin Lopez added a season-high 19 points and 16 rebounds, and forward Nicolas Batum had 17 points and 15 boards. Portland (41-19) saw its five-game winning streak end.
The Lakers got into transition early and often, winning the battle in fast-break points (32-9) and points in the paint (58-40).
“Energy was the key,” Los Angeles coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We haven’t been able to get to it for different reasons, but the team plays so much better this way. Guys seem to be having fun, and they played hard tonight.”
Portland had the ball and a 106-105 lead when guard Wesley Matthews missed a 3-point attempt with 13 seconds to go. The Lakers rebounded, but Los Angeles guard Kent Bazemore lost the ball out of bounds while driving to the basket with 7.1 seconds left. The ball was initially ruled Portland’s, but after a video replay, it was awarded to the Lakers.
After a timeout, Bazemore inbounded a lob pass to Johnson, who dropped it through for a 107-106 advantage.
“Bazemore made a great pass, (Johnson) did a great job of executing it,” D’Antoni said. “We were trying to get two or three guys open, and (Bazemore) picked the lob, which was spectacular.”
The Blazers called timeout, then inbounded to Lillard. He couldn’t get around Meeks and launched a 3-pointer from the top that fell far short as time expired.
“Jodie did an unbelievable job on Lillard that last play,” D’Antoni said. “He shut him down, stayed in front of him.”
The Lakers, taking advantage of eight Portland first-quarter turnovers and outscoring the Blazers 13-0 in fast-break points, led by 15 early and settled for a 33-20 advantage heading into the second quarter.
“They came out playing a lot harder, a lot faster,” Lillard said. “They were more locked in than we were. A game like this, especially on our home floor, we can’t let that happen.”
The Lakers extended a 63-56 halftime lead to 69-59 and then 82-73 before back-to-back 3-pointers by Portland forward Dorell Wright cut the margin to three late in the third quarter. The visitors took an 87-84 advantage into the final period.
With Meeks leading the way, the Lakers upped the margin to 97-86 with 7:30 to play. The Lakers’ edge was 103-94 when the Blazers rallied, Batum’s 3-pointer capping a 7-0 run that sliced the margin to 103-101 with 3:37 remaining.
Los Angeles guard MarShon Brooks sank two free throws to make it 105-101 with 3:14 left, but Batum’s rebound jam brought Portland back to within 105-103.
A fadeaway jumper by Matthews tied it at 105-105 with 1:10 to play. Lillard missed the second of two foul shots with 34.6 seconds to go, but he followed the shot for the rebound, and the Blazers had the ball and a 106-105 lead. That set up the drama of the game’s final seconds.
“The Lakers played really well,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “They kept the pressure on us the whole game. They came out with more energy, and they sustained it throughout the game. We did a good job defensively in the second half but couldn’t quite get over the hump. We weren’t good enough tonight.”
NOTES: The Lakers earned their fourth win in their past 16 visits to Portland. … Lakers G MarShon Brooks and G Jordan Farmar came off the bench for a combined 17 points on 5-for-18 shooting, a far cry from their gunnery in the previous game, a 126-122 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday. The duo combined for 53 points on 18-for-27 shooting in that one, including 11-for-13 from 3-point range. … The Lakers won Monday despite losing the rebound battle 53-44, the Blazers matching a season high with 20 offensive boards. … Portland C Robin Lopez notched season highs in scoring in successive games. He had 18 points in Saturday’s win over the Denver Nuggets. He recorded his 23rd double-double of the season Monday. … Portland’s Nicolas Batum, a 6-foot-8 small forward, has 31 rebounds in the past two games. … Batum joins Kevin Durant (2013-14) and LeBron James as the only NBA players since 1985 with 400 rebounds, 300 assists, 100 3-point shots and 40 blocks in his team’s first 60 games of a season. … Batum posted his sixth double-double of the season.
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