Ron Artest had 21 points against the Trail Blazers last February, when the… (Rick Bowmer / Associated…)
The Lakers hadn't won a game in Portland since Feb. 23, 2005, but they were being asked to finally defeat the Trail Blazers in a game last season with Kobe Bryant sitting out with a sprained left ankle.
The Lakers had lost nine consecutive games at the Rose Garden over that span, but they were being asked to break that losing streak without Bryant and Andrew Bynum, who went down in the first quarter of that game on Feb. 6, 2010 with a hip injury.
Somehow, the Lakers pulled out a 99-82 victory that night without two of their starters.
The Lakers will return to their personal torture chamber, otherwise known as the Rose Garden, Wednesday night for another encounter with the Trail Blazers.
Now the Lakers will see if they can win up there again, and this time, they will have Bryant and Bynum to help in the chore.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson remembered how it all unfolded the last time the Lakers won in Portland.
"We played without Kobe," Jackson said, smiling, "and we ran our offense that night, if I remember right."
Ron Artest — yes, Ron Artest — led the Lakers in scoring in the game with 21 points. Lamar Odom had 10 points and matched his career high with 22 rebounds.
"I look forward to competing against them," Odom said. "If we lose, they got us again. But if you win, you're like, 'We got them.' you soak it up."
The Lakers' 104-80 victory over the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center Tuesday night allowed their core players to get plenty of rest.
No starter played more than 35 minutes.
Bryant played just 26 minutes, Derek Fisher 24, Bynum 25, Pau Gasol 35 and Artest 23.
"I think the Rose Garden has probably been tough for a lot of teams to go play in," Odom said. "It's just the atmosphere, the energy that they have up there. It's hard to compete when the crowd is going crazy before the national anthem is even played. They do a great job with their fans supporting their team. And they look forward to playing against us."
Lakers guard Steve Blake played four years for the Trail Blazers, so he has seen firsthand what it's been like for the Lakers and other teams that have come into the Rose Garden.
"It's a great home-court advantage," Blake said. "The crowd really, really gets into it, and even to another level against the Lakers.
"Portland is a well-coached team. So it's a tough place to play for any team. The fans really help the momentum of Portland's teams. If they go on a run, the crowd gets loud and you can just see the other team puts their heads down sometimes."
Blake was beloved when he played for Portland.
Now he is with the enemy Lakers.
"It's going to be interesting to see how they react to me," Blake said, smiling. "
For the second consecutive season, the Trail Blazers have dealt with injuries.
But guard Brandon Roy, who had double knee surgery earlier this season, may play Wednesday night.
Center Greg Oden has missed the entire season after having left knee surgery.
Those are just two of the many injuries that have plagued Portland.
Despite all that, the Trail Blazers are the fifth-seeded team in the Western Conference.
"Game-wise, I think that they are kind of an admirable team," Jackson said. "They've kind of held their selves together, kind of like they did last year. With some injuries to key players, their team is looking pretty good right now.… They are moving up the ladder."