Lakers 99, Bobcats 97
LOS ANGELES (AP)
With his superstar hobbling and the Charlotte Bobcats refusing to go away, Phil Jackson never got terribly comfortable while becoming the winningest coach in Los Angeles Lakers history.
Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 14 rebounds, and Lamar Odom scored 19 points while making several big plays down the stretch, making sure Jackson added another superlative to his matchless coaching career in Los Angeles' 99-97 victory over the Bobcats on Wednesday night.
Jackson, also the winningest coach in Chicago Bulls history, passed Pat Riley with his 534th win with the Lakers. The Hall of Famer won 545 games and six titles in nine seasons with Michael Jordan and Co. before winning four more rings in his first nine seasons with the Lakers, rising to fifth on the NBA's career coaching victories list when he passed Charlotte's Larry Brown earlier this season.
``It's been a really good run,'' Jackson said. ``Having this opportunity to coach this team is always special. The fact that we've had some great teams, great players, is always a credit to them. It's not really an individual record in my mind.''
Jackson is the winningest playoff coach in NBA history, and the only coach to win more than 70 percent of his regular-season games. Against the pesky Bobcats, he managed to coax a late-game win out of his Lakers even with just a season-low five points from Kobe Bryant.
Bryant aggravated his already-sore left foot when Odom stepped on it late in the first half. His jumping and speed obviously compromised, Bryant then failed to score in the fourth quarter of his first single-digit scoring game of the season.
``It was just stiff - stiff and tight,'' said Bryant, who's already playing with a broken finger on his shooting hand. ``Lamar stepped on my foot as I was changing directions, so ... it just made it worse. It just set it back to Square One.''
Pau Gasol and Ron Artest scored 14 points apiece for the Lakers, who returned from an eight-game trip to improve the NBA's best home record to 24-3 with their eighth consecutive victory at Staples Center.
``We struggled against them for a while, and we were able to play pretty well even though it wasn't our best game,'' Gasol said.
The Lakers hadn't been home since beating Orlando on Jan. 18. The defending champions went just 5-3 on their East Coast trip, staying atop the Western Conference but struggling against the demands of a schedule that includes four more games in the next seven days.
Stephen Jackson scored 30 points for the Bobcats, who played without injured All-Star Gerald Wallace in the finale of a six-game trip. Nazr Mohammed added 23 points and 17 rebounds, but the Bobcats couldn't quite pull ahead to beat the Lakers for the fourth straight time, even with Bryant's woes.
``Everybody played good, (but) they've got such length and depth and size,'' Brown said. ``We weren't exactly perfect, but we were pretty darn good. ... We're getting better. We compete every night.''
Neither team took a lead larger than seven points in the first three quarters, and Charlotte quickly erased an eight-point Lakers lead in the fourth. Mohammed's fallaway jumper with 1:38 to play trimmed Los Angeles' lead to 93-92, but Gasol responded with a quick hook shot before blocking Jackson's driving layup.
After Odom tipped home Artest's layup, Bryant missed a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to give the Bobcats a final chance to tie. But Jordan Farmar forced a turnover on Jackson's pass on a muddled inbounds play, and made a fast-break dunk on a pass from Gasol with 4.5 seconds left.
``I had everybody confused,'' Brown said. ``That was my fault. We had another timeout where I don't think anybody really understood what we were trying to do, so that was on me. I told them all afterwards that that was just an old coach doing a stupid thing.''
Flip Murray made a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to trim the final margin.
``(A win) would have made a good road trip a great road trip, but they did what they had to do down the stretch, and that's what good teams do,'' Mohammed said. ``We're still growing, and that is where we're going to be.''
Wallace, the first All-Star in Bobcats history, strained his left hamstring late in their loss at Portland on Monday night. He skipped Wednesday's shootaround, but wasn't ruled out until game time, with Stephen Graham starting in his place.
Bryant's eventful night began with a standing ovation from a pregame ceremony in which Lakers great Jerry West presented him with a game ball in recognition of Bryant's ascension to the top of the Lakers' career scoring list. Bryant passed West on Monday night during the Lakers' loss at Memphis.
NOTES: Los Angeles improved to 5-6 against Charlotte in the Bobcats' brief history. The Boston Celtics are the only other NBA franchise with a winning record against the Lakers. ... The Bobcats will be back at Staples Center in 17 days to face the Clippers. ... Lakers G Derek Fisher made the 1,000th 3-pointer of his career. ... Courtside fans included Taylor Lautner, television host Olivia Munn and Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine.