The celebration of departed Kobe Bryant's life by the Los Angeles Lakers was dampened by Damian Lillard's heroics as the visitors Portland Trail Blazers beat the Lakers 127-119 on Friday night. Of the 48 points that Lillard scored, 29 came in the second half.
Lillard, who made nine rebounds and 10 assists, narrowly missed a second straight triple-double. He converted 17 of the 30 shots from the floor and connected on 7 of the12 aims at 3-pointers.
Lillard scored 23 points in the third quarter
Hassan Whiteside had 30 points on 13-of-14 shooting while adding 12 rebounds and five blocks, and CJ McCollum contributed 19 points for Portland. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 37 points, 15 boards and five blocks. LeBron James finished with 22 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Kyle Kuzma had 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Lillard scored 23 points in the third quarter as the Blazers outscored the Lakers 43-34 for a 103-96 advantage heading into the fourth. Portland increased the margin to 12 early in the fourth quarter before Los Angeles rallied. The Lakers cut the gap to three on a 3-pointer by James with about eight minutes remaining but got no closer as the Blazers answered with clutch baskets down the stretch.
Kobe Bryant's memory honoured
There were a host of tributes and musical performances throughout the affair, including a moving pregame speech by James, as the Lakers played their first game since Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others perished in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, Calif.
The tributes continued after the opening tip. Like many teams in the NBA this week, the Lakers took an intentional 24-second violation followed by the Blazers committing an eight-second backcourt infraction, both in honour of Bryant's uniform numbers. There were 15 lead changes in the first half before two foul shots by Avery Bradley lifted the Lakers to a 62-60 edge at the break.
Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony didn't play for personal reasons but indicated in an Instagram post he wasn't emotionally ready to perform because of the death of Bryant, a good friend. Lillard scored 30-plus points for the seventh consecutive game. He is averaging 44.3 points in that stretch, which includes a franchise-record 61-point outing against the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 20.
(With inputs from agencies)