Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/1/12
PORTLAND -- The Los Angeles Lakers may yet work themselves into position to be a bonafide contender for the NBA championship. They're a long way from that point now. Portland forward Nicolas Batum scored 26 points and got plenty of scoring help from his teammates as the Trail Blazers toppled the Lakers 116-106 Wednesday night at the Rose Garden. It was the second loss in as many nights for the Lakers, who fell 99-91 at Dallas in their opener Tuesday. Wesley Matthews scored 22 points and rookie point guard Damian Lillard contributed 23 points and 10 assists in his career debut on opening night for the Blazers. Dwight Howard collected 33 points, 14 rebounds and five assists and Kobe Bryant bombed in 30 points for the Lakers, who had 24 turnovers. The Lakers went most of the second half without the services of Steve Nash. The veteran point guard left the game early in the third quarter with a left leg contusion and did not return. After making 3 of 14 free-throw attempts against the Mavericks, Howard was 15 for 19 at the line Wednesday night. Portland expanded a five-point halftime lead to nine at 70-61 and then 77-66 midway through the third quarter after consecutive dunks off steals by Batum and Matthews. Howard and Bryant then led a 10-2 surge that got the Lakers to within 79-76. The Blazers responded by closing out the quarter on a 13-0 run -- reserve forward Sasha Pavlovic scoring seven consecutive points in the middle of it -- as they took a 92-76 advantage into the final period. The Lakers made a late rush to get to within eight points in the final minute, but could get no closer. Portland got big first halves from its veterans in mounting a 62-57 edge at halftime. Batum (19 points), Wesley Matthews (14) and LaMarcus Aldridge (12) led the scoring parade for the Blazers, who fired at a 54.5 percent clip before the break. Los Angeles got 17 points apiece from Bryant and Howard and shot 52.9 percent from the field, but the Lakers committed 14 turnovers before intermission. The Lakers took a 17-14 lead early before Aldridge and Batum got things going for the Blazers. Portland held a 30-26 advantage after one quarter. The Lakers had eight turnovers in the period. Portland extended the lead to 35-26, and it was still 41-34 when Bryant and Metta World Peace nailed back-to-back three-pointers to draw Los Angeles within 41-40. That was as close as the visitors would get before the half. NOTES: Howard, who was 3-for-14 at the free-throw line in the Lakers' season-opening loss to Dallas on Tuesday night, made 11 of 14 foul shots in Wednesday's first 15 minutes. ... The first two shots of Lillard's NBA career were three-pointers. The Blazers' first-round draft pick made both -- but the first was disallowed because he stepped on the sideline. Lillard's first assist came on a left-handed, behind-the-back bounce pass to Aldridge, who drained a 15-footer. ... Entering the night, the Blazers had won 16 of the past 20 and 30 of the past 38 meetings with the Lakers in Portland dating to 1993. ... Matthews played in his 231st consecutive game. He has never missed a game during his four years in the NBA.
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