for this game

Bryant carries Lakers to ninth straight win

Feb 27, 2008 - 7:28 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - If the Los Angeles Lakers needed a reminder about the tough Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers provided it.

Kobe Bryant collected 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to help the Lakers earn their season-high ninth straight win after battling back to defeat the Blazers, 96-83, on Tuesday.

Jordan Farmar tied a career-high 21 points and Pau Gasol added 15 and 10 rebounds as the Lakers were able to overcome a sluggish start.

"I think it is a great sign," Gasol said. "We were able to bounce back when things weren't going as well as they usually go. They fought hard, we kinda stood back up and we played a good game."

The Lakers, who own the best mark in the West at 40-17, are riding their longest winning streak since the 2003-04 season when they last reached the NBA Finals.

"We're having a lot of fun, and that's the key to our success," Farmar said. "We're playing together, having fun, we're enjoying the challenges like tonight, and it's great."

Farmar had one of his better games as a pro, hitting 8-of-10 shots - including four from beyond the arc - to help Los Angeles rally from a 15-point first-quarter deficit.

"I've been looking to be more aggressive during the second half of the season regardless," Farmar said. "When we were down, I just knew (my shooting) was even more so needed at that time."

"We have, in my estimation, the best bench in the league," Bryant said. "Guys come in and do an extremely good job playing, moving the basketball, knocking down shots, just playing extremely well."

The loss was the eighth in nine games for the Blazers, whose hopes of making the postseason are growing dimmer by each setback. Portland (29-28) sits just outside the playoff picture in the 10th spot in the West.

Blazers All-Star Brandon Roy missed the game because of a nagging ankle injury which he aggravated in Sunday's loss to Boston.

Even without Roy, the Blazers proved to be a formidable foe.

"Unfortunately, it's a 40-minute game," Blazers forward Travis Outlaw said. "We just got to keep pushing on them. We were having a great first half and we just need to learn how to carry it over."

With the Lakers clinging to a one-point lead in the fourth, Bryant and Farmar combined to score every basket during in a 9-0 spurt that put them ahead 81-71.

"Jordan got us back in the ballgame with some plays and helped us win that game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Bryant secured the comeback with two technical free throws and a 3-pointer to make it an 11-point lead with just under three minutes remaining.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 24 points and Steve Blake chipped in 17 and seven boards for the Blazers, who shot just 36 percent (30-of-83) from the floor and was held to 32 points after the break.