Down by two with 3.2 seconds left, Kobe Bryant merely wanted to drive for a tying basket. His foot slipped when he got the ball, and Miami’s defense forced Bryant to throw up an off-balance 3-point shot that was well off target and far too long.
Yes, everything went wrong on the Los Angeles Lakers’ final possession.
Kobe somehow made it all right.
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Bryant banked in his final shot over Dwyane Wade’s outstretched arm at the buzzer, ending the superstars’ sensational duel and sending the Lakers to their eighth straight victory, 108-107 over the Heat on Friday night.
Bryant scored 33 points, but his falling bank shot from straightaway likely will rank among the most incredible highlights of his career – even if he refused to take too much credit for it.
“It was the luckiest shot I’ve ever taken, by far,” Bryant said. “It felt good, (but) I just couldn’t believe this ball might go in on this shot.”
With 3-pointers by Bryant and Derek Fisher in the final 4.3 seconds, Los Angeles swiped an outstanding regular-season game away from the Heat and Wade, who scored nine of his 26 points in the final 2 minutes. A night of mediocre shooting finally cost the defending NBA scoring champion when he missed a free throw that gave Los Angeles one last chance to tie it with a two-point basket.
Bryant was forced to go for the win, and his improbable shot kept the Lakers atop the overall NBA standings while sending Miami to its eighth loss in 12 games.
“If you told me before the game that it would be decided by Kobe shooting a one-legged backboard 3, I’d have taken that,” Wade said. “The basketball gods were with him on that one, but we did a great job and did what we’re supposed to do on the road – give ourselves a chance to win. But a great player hit an unbelievable shot. There are a couple of guys around the league that make big shots, but there ain’t many, and he’s one of them.
The matchup between U.S. Olympic teammates was the center of an action-packed game featuring a shoving match between Jermaine O’Neal and Lamar Odom, leading to Odom’s ejection with 5:07 to play.
Neither star was perfect, with Wade struggling to a 7-of-21 shooting performance and Bryant missing the basket entirely on a potential tying shot with 24 seconds to play. Both came up big in the final seconds, but Bryant was just a bit bigger in front of his raucous home crowd.
“It’s L.A.,” said Fisher, who hit a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left, setting the stage for Wade’s last miss and Bryant’s heroics. “Why not have it be as dramatic as it was? … I had to remind myself this was a regular season game in mid-December. I was jumping on Kobe’s back like it was the finals.”
O’Neal had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Heat, who rebounded from an 18-point loss in Denver one night earlier with an impressive effort against the defending NBA champions.
After Wade put Miami ahead 102-100 with 49 seconds left on an awkward one-handed shot from the baseline, Miami appeared to sew up its first road win over the Lakers in five tries when Wade’s two free throws put the Heat up 106-102 with 9.3 seconds to play.
“I only get a chance to play against them twice a year, and I take on the challenge and I enjoy it,” Wade said. “I enjoy the competitive nature that I know Kobe’s going to bring every night, and I’m going to bring the same things. I think he understands that as well, so it was a good battle going back and forth. He got the last laugh this time.”
Pau Gasol scored 22 points and Andrew Bynum added 19 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who had won seven straight games by double digits while surging to the top of the standings. After several games against struggling opponents, they seemed headed to a narrow defeat in their toughest test in weeks – but Bryant wouldn’t allow it.
In the midst of an underwhelming start to the season, Miami showed considerable moxie in its third game in four days. Quentin Richardson hit a 3-pointer with 2:44 to play to put the Heat in front before Wade scored nine of their final 11 points.
Moments earlier, O’Neal and Odom exchanged shoves after Odom fouled O’Neal, who bumped into Odom while hanging on the rim after his dunk. When Odom reacted angrily, O’Neal gave him a one-handed shove in the chest, and Odom responded with a two-handed shove.
Both got technical fouls, but the T was Odom’s second, resulting in his ejection.
Bryant’s duel with Wade didn’t start out with much excitement: Wade scored one point in the first quarter and didn’t manage a field goal until throwing down two stellar dunks in the final 2:04 before halftime.
NOTES: Gasol fell to the court writhing in pain with 6:03 to play after Odom poked him in the left eye while both players tried to block a layup by Richardson. Gasol returned to the game when Odom was ejected. … Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he discussed Ron Artest’s recent admission of drinking alcohol during games a decade ago – not to talk about Artest’s drinking, but about his decision to discuss it with the media.