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.