The Lakers lined up alongside Kobe Bryant, or behind him, or something, when asked if they agreed with his optimistic belief they would make the playoffs. They then backed it up with a gritty 111-107 victory Friday over the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center. That's two in a row for the Lakers, reason enough to throw a victory parade in a season to dismember. Bryant was the first to back up his boast that the Lakers would play past April 17, scoring 40 points on impressive 15-for-23 shooting. It was enough to counteract one of Steve Nash's worst shooting games (four points, two-for-11 accuracy) and some defensive wobbles. Guarantees are guarantees, aren't they? Bryant's teammates fell in line with his assertion. "I'm not going to sit up here and say, 'No, we're not going to make it,'" Dwight Howard said beforehand. "We've got to have faith. I believe that we're going to turn this around and we're going to be great." It wasn't quite as strong as Bryant's proclamation — "It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will." — but there was enough conviction on the court to overcome a four-point deficit in the final minutes. The Lakers (27-29) are 31/2 games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.