Bulls rally to stun Lakers on Rose’s winner

Kobe Bryant has already been on the journey Derrick Rose is

starting. Even after the reigning MVP hit the shot that ruined the

Los Angeles Lakers’ opener, Bryant said he still roots for his

young friend.

Bryant might not have the same immediate warmth toward Luol

Deng, who spent the final minute causing most of Kobe’s problems

and securing the Chicago Bulls’ impressive comeback.

Rose scored 22 points and hit a go-ahead floater in the lane

with 4.8 seconds to play, and the Bulls rallied from an 11-point

deficit in the final 3:44 for an 88-87 victory Sunday.

In the last 17 seconds, Bryant committed his eighth turnover and

had his final shot blocked – and Deng was the culprit on both

plays. Deng also scored 21 points, including nine in the fourth

quarter and five in the final 45 seconds.

Kobe knows every superstar must have a strong supporting cast,

and he can tell Rose has everything he needs to succeed during the

upcoming season of high expectations for the NBA’s best

regular-season club last season.

”They’re one of the best teams in the league, and we did a

phenomenal job holding them down,” said Bryant, who scored 28

points while playing with a torn wrist ligament. ”(On the last

play) they did a good job with the rotations, and (Deng) came over

and made a good block.”

Carlos Boozer had 15 points for the Bulls, who have designs on a

championship run. But Chicago appeared headed for a mildly

surprising loss in the first game of a season filled with high

expectations until Rose and Deng bailed out the Bulls, who finished

with a 17-5 rally.

The Bulls had to score the final seven points to earn their

first road win over the Lakers in six tries.

”If it weren’t for my teammates, making the steal and getting

the ball to me at the end, there’s no way I could have gotten that

shot off to help us win that game,” Rose said.

That credit should go straight to Deng, who demonstrated how his

particular combination of athleticism and intelligence makes the

Bulls exponentially better.

One possession before Deng stretched to block Bryant’s final

shot, he alertly intercepted Bryant’s pass to Pau Gasol out of a

trap, setting up Rose’s winner.

”He threw a lob pass, and I was able to get to it,” Deng said.

”As soon as we got the ball, I knew we were going to score.”

Until the final minutes, the Bulls were thoroughly disappointed

with their effort, while the Lakers were pleased by their passion

and execution after a tumultuous preseason. Chicago struggled

mightily against coach Mike Brown’s new defensive schemes for the

Lakers in the second half, managing just 25 percent shooting (12

for 48).

Bryant couldn’t finish strong in his NBA-record 14th Christmas

Day appearance. Los Angeles still led 87-81 on Bryant’s jumper with

54 seconds left, but Deng and Rose took the game away from him.

”I saw a lot of positive things,” Bryant said. ”Defensively,

we were terrific. We did a good job, and we’re just going to get

better. We’re going to be very good defensively.”

Bryant wore a compression sleeve on his right arm while playing

without a brace on his right wrist after getting hurt last week. He

appeared to have trouble handling the ball, but displayed a fairly

smooth jump shot and his usual superb footwork.

Gasol added 14 points for the Lakers, but was held scoreless in

the fourth quarter while committing four fouls. Los Angeles also

played without suspended center Andrew Bynum and departed sixth-man

Lamar Odom. Brown made his coaching debut with the team after

replacing 11-time champion Phil Jackson.

”We played pretty good basketball until right down the

stretch,” Brown said. ”There were a lot of things that went wrong

down the stretch where we didn’t quite finish the game.”

Los Angeles began the second half with an 18-7 run, clicking on

both ends while claiming a one-point lead heading into the fourth

quarter. Chicago finally awoke after Los Angeles pushed its

fourth-quarter lead to 11 at 82-71 with 3:45 to play, and the

Bulls’ game-ending run was abetted by four straight missed free

throws by the Lakers.

The Lakers’ 13th straight Christmas appearance was the second

straight for the Bulls, who returned to the holiday slate last

season for the first time since the last of Michael Jordan’s six

championships in 1997.

NOTES: Bryant’s 14th Christmas game in his 16 NBA seasons

surpassed the record jointly held by Earl Monroe, Dolph Schayes and

Shaquille O’Neal. … Richard Hamilton scored six points in his

first start for the Bulls, who signed the veteran shooter 11 days

earlier. … Veterans Matt Barnes, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono

didn’t get into the game for the Lakers, while rookie Andrew

Goudelock hit two 3-pointers and played 12 1/2 minutes. … Fans

near courtside included Kanye West, Adam Levine, Terrell Owens,

Frank Robinson and Maria Shriver.