Bryant scores 40 points to lead Lakers past Trail Blazers


LOS ANGELES — So often this season, the Lakers and Dwight Howard haven’t found a way.

Despite a variety of adversity against a Portland team likewise vying for a playoff berth, the Lakers got it done Friday night.

They overcame Dwight Howard’s latest shoulder aggravation to win, 111-107, and the Lakers inched to two games of the .500 mark for the first time since Jan. 6 … 24 games ago.

The Lakers had lost their other recent games when Howard had felt the searing pain and numb arm and exited on Jan. 23 at Memphis and Jan. 30 at Phoenix. This one went differently, starting with him hanging in there.

Kobe Bryant carried the team while Steve Nash was ice cold and Howard labored in the third quarter — Bryant scoring 18 of his 40 points then. Then Metta World Peace delivered several key plays after Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni left him in the game despite being literally hopping mad at World Peace dominating the ball and committing a turnover.

D’Antoni’s let-them-play style hasn’t worked all that often for the Lakers, but it did on this night — especially because Howard did play. He brought commendable effort both before and after feeling that torn labrum again midway through the game, making several hustle plays late. He finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds on a night when no other Laker had more than Bryant’s seven boards.

“He did fight through the pain,” D’Antoni said.

Howard cringed in the now-familiar sight of him aggravating the torn labrum in his shoulder while trying to rise up with the ball under the basket with 57 seconds left in the first half. Portland’s Victor Klaver fouled Howard on the play, but he stayed in the game after a timeout.

Howard had been fantastic to that point, giving stellar effort and even sprinting up and down several times in the first quarter. The point was that Howard was testing his limits in a way that he hasn’t always done this season.

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