Kobe Bryant has guaranteed that the Los Angeles Lakers will make the playoffs (according to Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated), and the team took a big step toward making that happen with a 111-107 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Lakers entered the game just half a game ahead of Portland for the ninth spot out West. This had been a home-dominated series, with Los Angeles winning 10 of the last 11 at Staples Center, and that trend continued Friday night.
Both teams had a lot of energy to start this one. The contest was tightly contested early, and while L.A. was able to move the ball well, it went into half time down two points because of a flurry of missed open shots.
The second half began with the Blazers catching fire, so for Los Angeles, it quickly became Kobe time. He scored the team's first 13 points of the third quarter, and more importantly, he did it with efficient shooting.
The Lakers finished the period on a 16-9 run, but it was only enough to bring them within two points after Portland's hot start.
The final quarter fit the back-and-forth theme of the night, and the intensity quickly reached its highest point. Both teams understood what was on the line, and fortunately for L.A., it put together the late-game execution necessary to steal one at home.
One game doesn't ensure anything at this point in the year, but with the Lakers fighting the Blazers for a playoff spot, this was a big win with just two months remaining in the regular season.