Bryant leads Lakers over Bobcats 100-93
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)
Almost no one else shot for the Los Angeles Lakers in the final seven minutes when the game was on the line.
Bryant shrugged off a scoreless first half - he attempted only two shots - to finish with 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds as the Lakers defeated the Bobcats 100-93.
The formula - where Bryant facilitates early and scores late - is one that forward Antawn Jamison anticipates fans will see more of from the Lakers down the stretch this season.
''I think in the future that is how you're going to see us play with Kobe getting guys involved early on, seeing how it goes, and then as the game goes into the fourth quarter he begins to take over a little bit,'' Jamison said.
Bryant doesn't mind.
What he does mind is the way the Lakers played against the Bobcats, the NBA's worst team.
Bryant said he was ''irritated'' at the way the Lakers passed up good shots, committed turnovers and had to overcome a 20-point second half deficit to beat a team that's only won 11 games all season.
''We have to play the right way,'' Bryant said. ''When we have shots available, we take them. If we don't, move the ball on. It can't be about individual touches. It can't be about that.''
As for not shooting in the first half, Bryant said: ''If we lose the game, everybody points the finger at me for not shooting the ball. And that's fine. As long as I'm confident that I make the right play to help as a team, that's the most important thing. We all need to follow that example and just play for each other.''
The Lakers are 4-2 on their current seven-game road trip which wraps up Sunday in Miami.
At 24-27, they could use a win against the defending champions, but Jamison said the Lakers have to play better if they hope to be a playoff team.
''We can't play like we did early in the game tonight, which was not playing with energy, the turnovers, and giving our opponents easy opportunities in transition,'' Jamison said.
Still, the Lakers won.
Bryant didn't come out for warmups to start the second half. But he was there to provide the spark the lackluster Lakers needed in the third quarter. He scored 14 of his points in the final period, including a driving layup with 40 seconds left to push the lead to five and help seal the win.
''In the second half, I got in position where I could catch it and turn and shoot it a little bit,'' Bryant said. ''They were reluctant to double team because we started knocking down some shots. I think that makes the game a lot easier.''
Howard played his second straight game despite nursing an injured right shoulder.
''Continuity,'' Howard said when asked of the Lakers offensive woes. ''We have to do a better job of spreading everything out and moving and getting everybody involved. When we do that, we are pretty good.''
Charlotte led 71-51 in the third quarter, but the Lakers stormed back behind a 9-0 run. They cut the lead to one on a driving layup by Bryant with 6:06 left in the game and Jamison gave the Lakers their first lead with 4:46 remaining on a left-handed finger roll in the lane.
The Lakers took the lead for good at 92-91 when Jodie Meeks made a 3-pointer with 3:02 left in the game.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni wasn't pleased with the overall effort, but liked that his team bounced back after a 116-95 loss to the Boston Celtics the night before.
''We've just got to be able to put our earplugs in, or mufflers on, or blinders on,'' D'Antoni said. ''It's like the Kentucky Derby with horses, just get those blinders on and just get out there and run.
''We have so much stuff going on out here that every little thing is blown to bits and whether it is right or wrong or blown out of proportion it is. But, it affects us. It is a distraction. It saps energy. We've got to be able to just close that out somehow.''
The Lakers have been unpredictable this season, particularly on the road where they were 8-17 coming into this game.
Before Friday night's game against Charlotte, D'Antoni was asked if the Bobcats were a dangerous opponent for his team.
''We're playing, aren't we? (Then) there's a danger,'' D'Antoni said with a laugh. ''If they play the national anthem, we're in danger.''
He was right.
The Lakers started slow, looking out of sync just as they have for a good portion of the season as pick and rolls turned into turnovers and layups on the other end.
Nash had four early turnovers and Howard threw a pass across court that hit the side of the backboard.
The Lakers turned the ball over five times in the game's first eight minutes and fell behind 20-9.
Bryant missed his only two shots in the first half, his slowest start since March 31, 2012, when he went three quarters without scoring a point before beating the New Orleans Hornets on a game-winning shot.
The game was similar to earlier this season when the Bobcats led by 18 in Los Angeles only to squander the lead.
''We had them down pretty much the whole game,'' Bobcats guard Kemba Walker said. ''You know, they made a really good run. Kobe made a lot of good plays, made the right passes and guys just made shots.''
NOTES: Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned Friday after missing two games with a concussion. ... At halftime, Bryant had five rebounds, two assists and no points. ... The Bobcats had been one of three teams with a .500 or better record all-time against the Lakers, but fell to 8-9 with Friday night's loss.