Young: Lakers missed Kobe down stretch

PORTLAND, Ore. -- On Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers counted on Kobe Bryant to close out a close game, and the star shooting guard delivered, scoring their final nine points to seal a win.

But one day later, against the Portland Trail Blazers, Bryant sat out to rest. And Bryant's absence was sure felt late in Monday's back-and-forth affair when the Lakers' offense struggled while the Trail Blazers were being carried almost single-handedly by their closer, Damian Lillard.

Portland's star point guard outscored the Lakers 16-11 in the final 5:12 of his team's 98-94 win, capping off an excellent performance in which he tallied a game-high 39 points.

"[Monday] showed that he's one of the top-five point guards in the league," said Lakers guard Nick Young.

As for the Lakers, Bryant's absence loomed large, with Young saying they "needed" him.

"We're all so used to him being there in the last couple minutes of the game," said Young, who scored 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting off the bench.

Jeremy Lin agreed that the Lakers missed Bryant down the stretch.

"When you think of guys who hit game winners or whatever, you think of him, you think of [Michael] Jordan," said Lin, who scored 14 points off the bench. "We're always going to miss him, but that doesn't mean we in this locker room don't feel if we had those shots again we'd be able to hit them. I do, Nick does. We have confidence that we'll be able to next time around."