Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers

If there is such a thing as a good loss – and I’m not saying there is – then tonight was a good loss for the Lakers.

Playing against Portland, who are tied for the second-best record in the league, the Lakers found themselves down 19-2 out of the gate. The game seemed over early, and yet the Lakers roared back to take a 43-42 lead.

Trailing by just three at half time, the Lakers were trounced in the third quarter, and found themselves trailing 94-74 with only 12 minutes remaining. The game once again seemed over, and yet the Lakers made a miraculous run to trail just 99-98.

Portland, though, beat them back once again, stealing the momentum, and opening up a 109-102 lead with 1:20 remaining in the game. And yet these Lakers did not give up, and rallied to trail only 110-108 with 20 seconds remaining.

Alas, the final 20 seconds did not go the Lakers’ way, and they fell to 9-9 with the loss. But they repeatedly showed resiliency throughout the game, and consistently played strong team basketball.

Although it’s tough to celebrate personal accomplishments in a loss, it’s worth noting that both Xavier Henry and Robert Sacre set career highs in scoring tonight.

Henry was special tonight, scoring his 27 points incredibly efficiently (9-12 FG, 2-4 3PT, 7-11 FT) and finishing with a team-high plus-minus of +23. Think about that: In the 29 minutes that Henry played, the Lakers outscored Portland by 23 points; in the 19 minutes that Henry rested, Portland outscored the Lakers by 29 points.

And Sacre deserves a paragraph as well. In my last Game Report I expressed surprise that D’Antoni was playing Sacre ahead of Chris Kaman, but Sacre had his best game as a professional tonight. Not only did he set a career high with 12 points (5-8 FG, 2-2 FT), but he filled up the stats sheet, adding seven rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and two steals, with no turnovers, no fouls, and a plus-minus of +15 in 24 minutes.

And that one-handed bounce pass from Sacre to Nick Young with 20 seconds remaining was as nice as you’ll ever see from a big man.

Jodie Meeks scored 20 points tonight, while Nick Young added 17. Steve Blake scored 13, and dished out nine assists.

Unfortunately, not everyone played well, which is why the Lakers lost the game. Pau Gasol had his worst game of the season, scoring just six points on 3-15 shooting (20%), not getting to the line once, and pulling down just five rebounds in 25 minutes of play. Coach Mike D’Antoni was right to have him watch the fourth quarter from the bench.

And Jordan Hill had yet another quiet night, with just two points and six rebounds in 16 minutes.

It’s hard to look at the game as a whole, because there were so many big runs by both teams that the game felt more like several mini-games. But looking at the box score, it’s easy to see why the Lakers fell a little bit short. Portland grabbed 11 more rebounds than the Lakers, and converted on 11 more free throws.

And yet there is a lot to like in the Lakers’ box score as well. They recorded 25 assists on 40 baskets (63%), and turned the ball over just nine times. The balance was also nice – as it has been all season – nine players scored, nine players grabbed a rebound, and nine players recorded an assist.

The most troubling aspect of the night was not the loss, but that Jordan Farmar was forced to leave the game after just one minute of floor time, with a “moderate left hamstring strain.” I’m not a doctor, but my guess is that “moderate” is one degree worse than “mild.” And hamstring injuries can be very delicate.

It’s worth noting, though, that the big fourth quarter comeback came with Steve Blake watching from the bench. The unit of Henry, Sacre, Meeks, Wesley Johnson and Shawne Williams essentially played point-guard by committee, with all but Henry recording a fourth-quarter assist. So, perhaps the Lakers will be fine at the point even if Farmar is not available for the next game – which is not until Friday, when the Lakers visit the Kings.

With four full days off, the Lakers will have a chance to rest and recuperate. And it’s not only Farmar who needs time to heal, but also Gasol, Hill, and Young, who have been suffering from an assortment of minor injuries. Perhaps more significantly, this lull in the schedule will also allow Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to see whether they are ready to return to action.

If Bryant, Nash, nor Farmar is ready to return on Friday, though, Lakers’ fans need not worry too much. Chances are good that their teammates will continue to hold down the fort in their absence, and continue to play an energetic and entertaining, team-oriented style of basketball.

Lakers’ Player of the Game

Xavier Henry was tonight’s player of the game, especially because of his relentlessness at getting to the hoop – and then producing once he got there. Henry scored a career-high 27 points on just 12 shots, and finished with a plus-minus of +23 in his 29 minutes of action.

Next Game

Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:00 p.m. PST at the Sacramento Kings

This is an article by Craig Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter: @stevenashchroni