- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Rose Garden has been a place, for quite some time, where the Los Angeles Lakers' hopes and dreams have come to die.
Coming into Wednesday, the Lakers' previous three games in Portland were losses. As were 12 of their previous 14 and, going back all the way to 2002, 17 of their past 21.
But Kobe Bryant has shown that he has the power to rise above the Trail Blazers' house of horrors before, and boy did he ever do it again in a 113-106 victory.
Bryant has been going by the self-appointed "vino" nickname this season to describe how his game has been aging like a fine wine.
Forget vino, Wednesday was straight vintage.
Bryant did everything but sell popcorn, as they say, finishing with 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals in an epic performance.
If the Lakers are going to live up to Bryant's playoff guarantee, he just might have to be the guy to will them there.
How it happened: L.A. gave up one of its all-too-typical poison-pill quarters to start things off, as Portland posted 41 points in the opening frame, but thanks to Bryant keeping up the torrid pace that he started against New Orleans, things never got too out of hand. The Lakers settled down on defense and used a 17-2 spurt to start the third quarter to really take back control of the game. They outscored the Blazers by nine in the fourth thanks to Bryant and Pau Gasol two-manning them to death, and the team defense holding Portland to just 16 points.
What it means: L.A. has a one-game lead over the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs with three games left to play. That's what matters.
Hits: As brilliant as Bryant was, Gasol had himself a night. Gasol finished with 23 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Dwight Howard had 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
Misses: The Lakers' defense allowed surefire rookie of the year winner Damian Lillard to score a career-high 38 points.
L.A. had 15 turnovers leading to 16 Portland points.
Stat of the game: Bryant put up his eighth 40-point game of the season.
Up next: The Lakers have three games left in the regular season, all of them at home: Friday against Golden State, Sunday against San Antonio and Wednesday against Houston.
7hJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info
9hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
6dESPN Stats & Information