The Los Angeles Lakers played host to the Portland Trailblazers, but they weren't exactly welcoming. The Lakers sent the Trailblazers packing from the Staples Center, losers of a 104-87 rout.
The Lakers were spurred by various efficient performances, but the main stars were Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. Bryant had his most efficient performance in recent memory, going for 27 on 9-of-18 shooting. He was especially effective at getting to the line, shooting 11 foul shots on the night. Howard, meanwhile, went for 21 points and 14 rebounds for yet another double-double.
The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, had their share of struggles. Damian Lillard shot under 25 percent, while the team as a whole struggled to get to the line. No Trail Blazer had more than four free throws. Another stat worth pointing out: the Trail Blazers hit just three three-point shots despite taking 19.
Ultimately, the Lakers dominated in every important stat. They out-rebounded, out-assisted and out-shot the Trail Blazers in a dominant performance. This Lakers team looks like they are finally starting to gel. The rest of the NBA had better watch out.
Player of the Game—Kobe Bryant, SG Lakers
Bryant was the offensive catalyst for the Lakers, dropping 27 on an efficient shooting effort.
He has struggled at times with his efficiency this season, often taking the offense on his shoulders when it wasn't necessary to do so. Friday night, though, Kobe let the offense flow and found his role within that flow.
When the Lakers offense flows like it did against the Trail Blazers, it will be nearly impossible to beat. Friday's game proved that L.A. can score without forcing Kobe to take control. That gave him more freedom and let Kobe have a great performance.
Honorable Mention—Dwight Howard, C Lakers
On most nights, 21 and 14 would be good for player of the game, but Howard will always find himself the Robin to Kobe's Batman.
Friday, though, Howard made the most of that role. He was able to score 21 points on just 13 shots, and his rebounding was excellent, as always.
Most impressively, Howard effectively shut down J.J. Hickson, one of the NBA's most efficient centers.
Goat—Damian Lillard, PG Trail Blazers
The Blazers impressive rook was anything but on this night. Lillard had just four assists. That's just one more assist than he had turnovers.
Worst of all, though, was Lillard's poor shooting performance. Lillard tied for the team-lead in attempts with 17, but he only nailed four of them.
LaMarcus Aldridge, on the other hand, also took 17 attempts, but he went for 26 points.
Lillard remains a bright young talent, but he was forcing the issue in this game, and it just wasn't working for him. The Blazers will play much better when Lillard chooses his spots better.
The Trail Blazers will host the 76ers on December 29, while the Lakers will also play host to the Philadelphia 76ers on New Year's Day.