Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are defying conventional wisdom, summoning the determination to play their best when their veteran legs should be turning to jelly.
Bryant scored 33 points, and the Lakers won their fourth straight game and second in a row in overtime, 107-101 over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.
”We don’t get down whenever we trail by 14, 15, whatever points. We don’t get discouraged,” Bryant said. ”We’ve been through it before. We’ve been down big in Game 7 of an NBA finals, so this is really nothing to us to maintain our composure.”
For the second night in a row, the Lakers climbed out of a double-digit hole in the second half to force an extra period. On Tuesday night, they came back from 17 down to win at Memphis in double-overtime. They also trailed New Orleans by as many as 17 late in the second quarter and 15 in the second half.
The Lakers needed only one extra session in New Orleans, taking the lead on Derek Fisher’s jumper in the final minute and going ahead 102-99 on Metta World Peace’s steal and fast-break layup.
”Having those old guys that are battle-tested and have been through it before is great,” Fisher said, referring in part to World Peace’s clutch overtime steal and score. ”Those are the type of plays that I mean – plays where guys are willing to step into the moment and make a play and not be fearful or afraid of the consequences. We have a team full of guys that have been through that.”
Andrew Bynum added 25 points and 18 rebounds for Los Angeles, while Pau Gasol had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Jarrett Jack scored 30 points, while Chris Kaman had 21 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which has dropped six of seven games.
Bryant scored seven of his points in overtime, starting with a fast-break dunk as he was fouled by Marco Belinelli, whose desperate jersey grab was unable to slow the Lakers star down. The basket marked Los Angeles’ first lead since 17-16 in the first quarter.
”We foul Kobe on a fast break and give him a dunk as opposed to wrapping him up. … From my standpoint, guys do that when they’ve never been in that position before. They don’t understand a hard foul,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ”That’s something we can learn from and grow from. But at the same time, when you lose, you’re like, `Gosh, I wish we could have that one back.”’
Bryant later added a difficult driving floater as he drifted across the lane to put the Lakers ahead 98-95. The Hornets briefly came back to regain a 99-98 lead on Trevor Ariza’s jumper with 1:21 left before Los Angeles went back in front for good.
Fisher finished with 11 points and Matt Barnes 10 for the Lakers, who outrebounded New Orleans 44-34.
Greivis Vasquez added 15 points and Belinelli 10 for New Orleans, which lost despite outshooting Los Angeles 51.8 percent (44 of 85) to 45.1 percent (37 of 82).
”That’s a team that won championships,” Vasquez said of the Lakers. ”They have been in that situation many times and they know how to act: Be calm, be relaxed and they executed. That really hurt us.”
The Lakers’ comeback began with World Peace’s first basket of the game early in the third quarter. Bryant added six points on what became a 14-4 run capped by Gasol’s jam.
Kaman’s jumper pushed New Orleans’ lead back to 64-57, but Fisher’s free throws and Bynum’s alley-oop dunk of Bryant’s lob ignited an 11-4 Lakers spurt, which concluded with Barnes’ 3 that tied it at 68 in the final minute of the period.
”Our guys came out at halftime and were determined to play the right way by getting stops,” said Lakers coach Mike Brown, whose team outscored New Orleans 30-16 in the third quarter. ”That helped us gain confidence.”
The Hornets weren’t ready to fold just yet, though. Vasquez’s free throws and transition 3 began a 7-0 spurt early in the fourth quarter, and the Hornets clung to the lead until Gustavo Ayon fouled Bryant behind the 3-point line with 19.3 seconds left. Officials ruled Bryant was in a shooting motion, giving him three free throws, all of which he made to tie it at 93. Neither team could score again in regulation, with Bryant’s attempted game-winner from the corner rimming out as time expired.
The Hornets shot nearly 61.5 percent in the first half (24 of 39) – the highest percentage allowed by the Lakers in a half all season – and held a double-digit lead through most of second quarter. Jack hit his first eight shots and had 17 points before halftime.
Bryant had 14 points in the first half, including a soaring double-pump jam as he was fouled. But Bryant missed seven of his first 11 shots and also had a swished 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter disallowed because his up-fake delayed his release until after horn.
Consecutive baskets by Jack put New Orleans up 54-37 late in the second period. That only set the stage for the Lakers to show the same resilience they had a night earlier.
Notes: This marked the first meeting of the teams this season. They meet again March 31 in Los Angeles and April 9 in New Orleans. … Several celebrities who are filming in New Orleans showed up to see the visit by Hollywood’s longtime favorite team. Actor Don Johnson sat along the sideline next to New Orleans celebrity chef John Besh. Samuel Jackson sat along the baseline near the Lakers’ bench. … Announced attendance was 17,272, the second-largest home crowd of the season. … Jack’s scoring total marked the first time a Hornets player has scored 30 in a game this season.