INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers were out-rebounded again. Hey, Rome wasn't built in a day.
Rebounding was about the only thing that didn't go their way Friday night in their 106-92 triumph over the Portland Trail Blazers before 17,505 at the Great Western Forum, giving the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference final.
Game 4 is this afternoon at the Forum.
With Vlade Divac emerging from the fog, Sam Perkins continuing his workmanlike play inside, A.C. Green giving them a lift off the bench and the offensive stars -- Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Byron Scott -- producing in bunches, the Lakers pulled away from the Blazers in grand fashion in the second half to coast to the first lopsided victory of the series.
They silenced a lot of demons in the process.
When the Lakers returned home after splitting two in Portland, talk centered not on how the Lakers were able to penetrate the Trail Blazers' home and steal away the home-court advantage. Talk was on whether the Lakers would ever be able to bounce back after getting routed on the boards, 51-28. Most of the blame fell on Divac, who managed just two rebounds in 'f Tuesday's 109-98 defeat.
Well, the Blazers took the rebounding crown again in Game 3, this time 48-41. The difference was that 23 of the Blazers' rebounds came on the offensive end and 29 of the Lakers' were on the defensive end.
The upshot being, the Trail Blazers couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.
The Blazers said they shot themselves in the feet. What else would they say after shooting 37 percent from the field -- a figure badly inflated because of a late flurry in garbage time. The Lakers credit an all-out effort on the defensive end.
The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
"When we shoot 37 percent and they shoot 50, we're not going to beat a lot of people," Blazers coach Rick Adelman said. "We really struggled shooting the ball tonight. We were impatient. It seemed to happen to everybody at once. It happened on shots around the basket, on shots where we had good looks, even on rebounds it wouldn't go down."
Clyde Drexler was 7-for-20, Jerome Kersey was 7-for-18 and Danny Ainge was 4-for-11. Most of all, center Kevin Duckworth was practically a double-zero (his uniform number) all night.
People in the Northwest this morning -- after touching up their "Beat L.A." signs in preparation for next week's Game 5 showdown -- will have to be asking themselves, how much is a Duckworth worth? On Friday, not even the price of a double cheeseburger.
Not only was he 2 for 14 from the field, the Blazers 290-pound all-star center had five turnovers -- two coming early in the fourth quarter when the Lakers broke open the game for good.
And it was his nemesis, Divac, who played his best ball of the series in the third quarter when the Lakers first wrested control. Divac, who all-but disappeared in Tuesday's loss at Portland, was mister visible as he helped orchestrate a 12-0 Lakers' run that put them ahead by 14.
In a two-and-half-minute span early in the third, Divac registered six points, two blocks and a steal. The Blazers managed to draw within nine at the start of the fourth, leaving it for Duckworth to help stumble the game away.
Divac finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, three blocked shots and tied Magic for most fists pumped in the air in exultation.
If their was some emotion expended out there Friday, it was only because they'd had three days to store it up.
"Sometimes the truth hurts, especially when you know you can do better," Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy said of the team's Game shortcomings. "But that isn't just Vlade. Everyone was on Vlade after Game 2 -- it was not just Vlade out there. It was a team effort. We win as a team, we lose as a team."
The Blazers were lucky to be within three at the half, what, with the way they started out. All they did for the first four minutes was miss all eight of their shots and lose possession three times on turnovers. By that time the Lakers had scored 10 points.
Despite the Blazers shooting 33.3 percent in the half, the Lakers could not shake them. They had a 37-28 lead with six minutes left, only to watch the Blazers reel off eight points in 73 seconds to pull within one.
The Lakers took a 43-40 lead into the break.
"I'm pretty pleased with the aggressiveness, the rebounding, the way we took the ball to the basket," Dunleavy said. "Vlade got us off to a great start, and Sam finished it off for us. That's the way we have to play to beat this team.