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KEVIN SULLIVAN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The Lakers' Ramon Sessions goes in for an easy lay-up in front of the Trail Blazers' Joel Przybilla during the first half at Staples Center Friday night.
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Lakers' Sessions soars in first start

Lakers' Sessions soars in first start

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

LOS ANGELES – Who should get the next statue outside Staples Center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Ramon Sessions?

Who should have his jersey number retired next, Shaquille O'Neal or Ramon Sessions?

The turnaround for the plodding, grinding Lakers offense continued Friday night in Sessions' first start as the Lakers point guard. Behind Sessions' 20 points, 11 assists and five rebounds, they defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, 103-96, at Staples Center.

The Lakers piled up a season-high 33 assists as a team — in a game in which Kobe Bryant missed all 11 shots he took in the game's final three quarters. Center Andrew Bynum continued to power the offense with 28 points although he was regularly double- and triple-teamed by a Portland defense that had its best luck throwing a zone at the Lakers in the second quarter.

Sessions was at the controls, though, and made it happen when it counted most. He had 13 of his points and nine of his assists in the second half, when Lakers coach Mike Brown rested Sessions just two minutes.

He also helped give the Lakers' offense some unpredictability after it so often has been Bryant banging his head against the perimeter defense's wall late in games. The Lakers never trailed, even with Portland All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge pouring in 29 points on 12-of-18 shooting.

"Just his presence alone has helped everybody out," Brown said of Sessions.

Bryant was hot early, making 5 of 6 field-goal tries in the first. Then he missed all 10 shots he put up in the second and third quarters, getting blanketed often by Portland's long-armed Nicolas Batum.

By the time Bryant came back for his final run in the fourth, Sessions had established a nice tempo that didn't need to be disrupted by Bryant's individual forays. Bryant finished with 18 points.

The Lakers were just 2-2 with Steve Blake starting while Sessions learned the Lakers' systems. Brown made what he called "a gut decision" to move Sessions in with the starters even though he had sped up the pace of the second unit's scoring so well. He had a similar effect on the first unit, which jumped out to a 30-19 lead after one quarter.


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