LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dwight Howard had 21 points and 14 rebounds, Kobe Bryant scored 27 points and the Los Angeles Lakers never trailed in their sixth win in seven games, 104-87 over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Pau Gasol had 15 points and nine rebounds as the Lakers closed out their 2012 schedule by climbing back to .500 (15-15) in their rocky season. Los Angeles had little trouble rolling past the Blazers, taking a 20-point lead in the first half and holding star rookie Damian Lillard to 11 points on 4-for-17 shooting.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points before sitting out the final minutes with a bruised chest for cold-shooting Portland, which lost for just the second time in eight games.
Steve Nash had 10 assists and six points while playing just 27 minutes in his fourth game back from a seven-week absence with a small fracture in his leg, the result of a collision with Lillard on Oct. 31 in Nash’s second game with the Lakers.
Nash’s playmaking again set an impressive tone for the Lakers, who outrebounded the Blazers 52-44 and took a 27-point lead late while scoring 23 fast-break points. Howard played with noticeable urgency on both ends after a lackluster outing in Denver two days ago, blocking three shots and even hitting four straight free throws when Portland briefly played Hack-a-Howard with the 50 percent foul shooter in the second quarter.
Even Gasol had appeared to have little trouble getting open shots despite playing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, a recently diagnosed condition that will only get better with rest. The Lakers have the weekend off before returning Tuesday against Philadelphia.
Will Barton scored 11 points for Portland, and Nicolas Batum added 10. Aldridge kept the Blazers fairly close during the first three quarters, but his teammates combined for 24-of-70 shooting.
The Lakers came out with more energy and aggression than they showed in Wednesday’s defense-deficient loss at Denver, hitting 14 of their first 21 shots and jumping to a 12-point lead in the first quarter. Los Angeles then made a 12-0 run to a 20-point lead shortly before halftime, with Gasol hitting a 3-pointer from straightaway to cap it.
At halftime, the Lakers retired the No. 52 jersey of Jamaal Wilkes, the Hall of Fame scorer who won three of his four NBA titles with the Lakers. Wilkes, a three-time All-Star with an unorthodox jump shot, choked up while thanking his teammates and fellow Lakers greats including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and James Worthy, who all joined Wilkes for the ceremony.
NOTES: G Wesley Matthews, the Blazers’ fourth-leading scorer with 15 points per game, missed his third straight game with an injured left hip. … Gasol made a 3-pointer in his third straight game, a first in his NBA career. … Fans received a replica Wilkes jersey at the door, and director Penny Marshall wore it in her courtside seat.