Kobe, Lakers narrowly avoid upset
Kobe Bryant is happy to be done with the Golden State Warriors so the Los Angeles Lakers can prepare for what they might actually see come playoff time next month.
Bryant scored 29 points and the Lakers dominated the boards to overcome a turnover-plagued night and beat the Warriors for the ninth straight time, 124-121 on Monday night.
Bryant said there was nothing to learn from a game where the Lakers committed 24 turnovers, outrebounded Golden State 56-25 and allowed 100 shots before holding on at the end for the victory.
"You’re not going to see anything remotely close to this in the playoffs," he said. "Not even close. There’s nothing you can gauge in this game. You just get out of here with a win and move on."
Pau Gasol scored 26 points, Andrew Bynum added 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Lamar Odom had 17 points and 12 boards for the Lakers, who have won three straight following their first three-game losing streak in more than two years.
The Lakers led by 11 late in the fourth quarter but barely held on for the victory. It wasn’t sealed until Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis missed 3-pointers in the final seconds. Ellis’ last-ditch attempt bounced on the rim three times before falling aside at the buzzer, completing a 5-for-23 night.
"I thought it was going in," Warriors center Chris Hunter said. "It looked like the invisible man tipped it away at the last second."
Curry scored 29 points for the Warriors, who have lost seven of eight. Coach Don Nelson remained six wins shy of breaking Lenny Wilkens’ record mark of 1,337. The Warriors have only 16 games remaining this season, meaning Nelson’s quest for the record might be pushed into next season if he is brought back as coach.
The Lakers took advantage of their decided height advantage with two 7-footers in the starting lineup against a Warriors team whose only true post player is Hunter, a former NBA Development League player.
But with a season-high nine turnovers by Bryant and eight more from Bynum, the Lakers struggled to put away the quicker Warriors.
"It was weird," forward Ron Artest said. "It was definitely weird. Twenty-something turnovers, that should not happen. A lot of them were unforced, a lot of mental errors. We knew we could win but we slipped up."
It was the fourth sellout of the season for the Warriors, but many of the season-high 20,038 fans were there to cheer on the Lakers instead of the home team. Positive plays by Los Angeles were often greeted with louder applause than those by the Warriors and some fans started an "M-V-P!" chant for Bryant.
The Lakers fell behind 72-63 early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Curry. But they answered with a 16-2 run that gave them a 79-74 lead and they never gave it up the rest of the way.
Curry’s 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter got the deficit back down to one, but Bynum responded with a three-point play following an offensive rebound. Bryant’s three-point play extended the lead to 111-103 with just under 5 minutes left.
The Warriors got the lead back down to two on a jumper by Ellis with about 20 seconds left, but Shannon Brown hit two free throws with 13 seconds to go to build the lead back to 123-119. After another basket by Ellis, Bryant made one of two free throws with 8.6 seconds left for the final margin.
"You’re going to have that kind of game when you play the Warriors," coach Phil Jackson said. "They go for speed and quickness. Did you see the turnovers? That helped them get 100 shots. … It was really difficult for us. It put us in jeopardy."
Hunter scored a career-high 22 points and Corey Maggette added 18. Ellis was held to 13 in one of the worst shooting games of his career.
"I’m a shooter," Ellis said. "I’m a shooter until Coach tells me not to shoot anymore. Nothing else I can do."
Los Angeles led 39-32 after a first quarter that was filled with statistical oddities. The Lakers made six straight shots to open the game, then missed six in a row before making eight in row. The Warriors, meanwhile, got little production from their high-scoring backcourt of Curry and Ellis, who shot just 1 for 10 in the period. But the frontcourt players made all 11 shots they took, including three 3-pointers from Anthony Tolliver.
C.J. Watson and Hunter then combined for all the points in an 11-2 run to end the half for Golden State and give the Warriors a 65-59 lead at the break.
Notes: Bryant had his most turnovers since a career-high 11 at Detroit on Jan. 31, 2008. … The Warriors were only the fifth team to take at least 100 shots in a regulation game this season. … Golden State’s five turnovers were its fewest since also having five against Milwaukee on March 30, 2005.