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Lakers use late run to nip Blazers, clinch division

Mar 21, 2011 - 6:39 AM Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Kobe Bryant scored 22 points, including four during a late eight-point burst that helped the Los Angeles Lakers claim an 84-80 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Lakers won for the 12th time in their last 13 games and improved to 50-20 this season, clinching the Pacific Division title.

Lamar Odom finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for LA, while Pau Gasol had 14 points and 13 boards.

Nicolas Batum had 25 points to pace the Blazers, who had won their last three.

Portland carried a 66-62 edge into the fourth quarter, which it opened with a Brandon Roy jumper. The Blazers continued to hold a lead of several possessions, scoring enough to stay in front but not enough to take control.

They were up 76-72 after LaMarcus Aldridge drained a step-back shot with four minutes left, but Bryant and the Lakers turned the tide over the next few minutes.

Bryant assisted on a Gasol layup that started LA's run, and his dunk with 2:22 left pulled the Lakers even. Derek Fisher stole the ball on Portland's next touch, leading to his go-ahead layup with 1:56 to go.

A series of turnovers and missed shots led to the Lakers -- specifically Bryant -- holding the ball. He drove toward the lane on the left side and lofted a floater that dropped through with 1:11 left, making it an 80-76 game.

Rudy Fernandez missed a three at the other end, though sank a technical free throw following a brief scuffle involving LA's Ron Artest.

But Bryant restored the two-possession edge, knocking down a fadeaway with 32.9 ticks left. Batum's quick trey had Portland within 82-80, but Fisher's jumper with 10 seconds to go secured the win.

"We got something going in the fourth quarter and made some defensive stops," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. "That's all I can say. We saved the game that we easily could have lost."

Portland faced a 27-20 deficit after the first quarter but dominated the second, shooting 48 percent and forcing five turnovers. The Blazers scored the final 10 points of the half to carry a 48-44 lead into the break.

They then opened the second half with five points, and were still up by nine when Gerald Wallace's layup made it a 61-52 contest with 4:29 left in the third quarter.

However, the Lakers scored the next seven points to stay close.

"I think it was mostly us," said Portland head coach Nate McMillan. "Once again, we have control of this game and we don't execute down the stretch."

Game Notes

LA played without center Andrew Bynum, who was given a two-game suspension Sunday for a flagrant foul he committed Friday against Minnesota...Both teams led by as many as nine points...Portland shot 39 percent...The Lakers scored 21 points off 14 Blazers turnovers...The Blazers held a 45-35 rebounding edge...The teams combined to make only 9-of-42 three-pointers...LA has won all three meetings so far this season. The teams play again on April 8 to close the series.