It didn’t matter that it was the Rose Garden. The ”M-V-P!” chant for Kobe Bryant was loud and clear.
Bryant scored a season-high 47 points [plus eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and four blocks] and carried the Los Angeles Lakers closer to a playoff berth with a 113-106 victory over the short-handed but tenacious Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
The Lakers moved a full game up on the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
”We’ve got no breathing room at all,” Bryant said. ”I’m still on edge. We’ve got to win three more games and we’re in.”
Portland, missing the playoffs for the second straight season, has lost nine straight, the most since an 11-game skid in the 2005-06 season. Rookie Damian Lillard led the Blazers with a career-high 38 points.
Pau Gasol had 23 points, seven rebounds and nine assists, while Dwight Howard added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers. Bryant was 18 of 18 from the free throw line and played the entire game, determined to pull out a win after trailing early.
”What he (Bryant) is doing is phenomenal. He’s determined to get us in the playoffs,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”That’s what happens when you open your mouth and guarantee that we’ll get in the playoffs.”
Bryant vowed in late February that his team would make it to the postseason. The Lakers wrap up the regular season at home with games against playoff-bound Golden State, San Antonio and Houston.
– Reported by Anne M. Peterson of the Associated Press