Lakers seek end to Portland pain
The Lakers play the Trail Blazers in Portland on Friday night and hope to rebound from an uninspired 102-91 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday -- their third loss in their past eight games -- and avoid falling into any sort of extended slump.
To do it they'll have to overcome the very definition of "extended slump."
The Lakers have dropped eight straight road games to the Trail Blazers and haven't won at the Rose Garden since 2005. As a point of reference, the team has never won in Portland during Andrew Bynum's career.
What's it going to take to put an end to the streak?
"Work harder, pick up the effort, keep the energy up," veteran guard Derek Fisher said. "Even when we have individual guys struggling offensively or whatever it is with individual games, there's still a collective amount of energy and effort that we should play with as a team and we have to continue to try to push to do that every night we're out on the floor."
The Lakers will have to do it without Pau Gasol, who accompanied the team to Portland but isn't expected to return from his left hamstring strain until Sunday at the earliest.
Not that the Lakers can complain about injuries around a team such as the Trail Blazers, who are missing Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez and Steve Blake because of numerous maladies.
On top of all that, Portland coach Nate McMillan and starting point guard Andre Miller had a heated yelling match at Thursday's practice.
But even if the Lakers had all their personnel available and the Trail Blazers weren't in the midst of any turmoil, there's something about playing in Portland that seems to have the Lakers' number.
Let's sort through the rubble of the eight losses:
April 10, 2009 -- Portland 106, Lakers 98 Kurt Rambis coached the team when Phil Jackson missed the trip because of pain in his lower right leg, and Kobe Bryant's 32 points weren't enough to get past Brandon Roy's 24 and eight assists. "Even when we're having championship runs, we usually come up here and get our butts kicked," Bryant said after the game.
March 9, 2009 -- Portland 111, Lakers 94 Was it a flagrant foul or not? Trevor Ariza tracked down Portland's Rudy Fernandez from behind and clipped his head and arms as he tried to go for the ball, sending Fernandez crashing to the floor. Fernandez was carried from the floor on a stretcher and Ariza was ejected and later suspended for a game. "I wasn't trying to hurt him," Ariza said. "I was just trying to make a play on the ball." Also, Roy's 27 points topped Bryant's 26.
April 8, 2008 -- Portland 112, Lakers 103 Already eliminated from postseason contention, Portland treated this as a playoff game and won thanks to double-doubles from Roy (23 points, 12 assists), LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points, 11 rebounds) and Channing Frye (22, 11). Bryant scored 34, but the Lakers fell behind by 18 early and never recovered.
February 29, 2008 -- Portland 119, Lakers 111 Portland finished the game on a 12-4 run to take the victory and end L.A.'s 10-game winning streak. Roy had 20 and 12, Bryant had 33 and it's starting to all sound familiar, isn't it?
November 8, 2006 -- Portland 101, Lakers 90 Zach Randolph played the way he has been playing for Memphis this season, racking up 36 points and 10 rebounds. Bryant scored 32 but was still finding his rhythm in this early season meeting because he missed the first two games of 2005-06 recovering from knee surgery.
January 11, 2006 -- Portland 113, Lakers 103 The Trail Blazers ended Bryant's four-game run of scoring 45 points or more, holding him to 41, and Juan Dixon, another blast from the past, scored 27 to lead Portland.
April 20, 2005 -- Portland 106, Lakers 103 It's fitting that the Lakers' slide started in the season finale of the team's least successful campaign in the past 10 years. Bryant scored 37 points, but the season in which Shaquille O'Neal and Phil Jackson left, Rudy Tomjanovich came and went and Frank Hamblen was left to pick up the pieces, mercifully came to an end. "It's disappointing. It's very disappointing," Bryant said. "And it's frustrating."
Disappointing and frustrating, there's no better way to describe the streak.
Fisher and Bryant were the last Lakers off the court after shootaround Friday, lingering around the free throw line and taking extra shots as their teammates bundled up to face the raindrops sprinkling outside.
"I've kidded the guys a couple of times about the rainy Portland weather and that it depresses our team so much we can't play but that's just jokester items," Jackson said.
What would be no joke and downright depressing, frankly, would be another Lakers loss Friday.
Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com