LOS ANGELES -- For all of its significance, this Lakers-Blazers game kept getting downsized, first by the two-game suspension of Andrew Bynum for a flagrant foul in Friday night's game, then by a right ankle injury to Marcus Camby. That's almost 14 feet of sidelined centers. When it got down to crunch time this game was in the hands of the guards, specifically the Lakers' backcourt of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.
Bryant and Fisher, with 397 playoff games between them, took over in the final 2½ minutes of this 84-80 Lakers victory that brought out playoff-type emotions from Bryant on the court, and a taste of his dour playoff media sessions in the locker room. They each had a steal as the Lakers tightened their defense, and they scored the team's final 10 points of the game.
"You can sense a difference, going from most teams to the Lakers," Portland's Brandon Roy said. "They have an aura of confidence about themselves going down the stretch. We definitely got a taste of it tonight."
So the Blazers lamented their three turnovers in the final 2½ minutes, all of their 5-for-18 shooting in the fourth quarter, while the Lakers' Phil Jackson said truthfully, "We probably saved a game we might have easily lost."