Lakers drop second consecutive game
If Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers keep knocking off the NBA's biggest names, it might not be too long before these youngsters are right up there with the superstars they're beating.
Hibbert had 24 points and 12 rebounds, and Kobe Bryant scored 41 points but missed two tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds of Indiana's landmark 95-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.
Danny Granger added 18 points for the Pacers, who followed up their surprising road win over Miami six days ago with an even more stunning victory in Los Angeles' banner-festooned home in the opener of a four-game road trip.
''To come into L.A. and beat the world champions on their home court is a huge win for us,'' Granger said. ''It gives us a lot of motivation and confidence on this West Coast road trip.''
Hibbert was blissfully unaware his Pacers had never beaten the Lakers on the road since Staples Center opened its doors in 1999, not even in three tries in the 2000 NBA finals. Indiana had lost 11 straight regular-season games to the Lakers on the road since its last win on Feb. 14, 1999, shortly before Staples Center opened.
''We know this is a big win for us, but we can play with anybody,'' Hibbert said. ''We don't want to get too high off this moment. In the future, we don't want this to be a surprise.''
The Pacers couldn't get comfortable with Bryant carrying his teammates nearly all the way back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but Hibbert's dunk with 16.4 seconds left provided enough cushion to carry them through.
On the final possession, Bryant - who went 14 for 33 while taking shots away from his struggling teammates - had a good look at a tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.
''Oh, my heart sank,'' Hibbert said. ''He's a closer. He's the Black Mamba.''
After Ron Artest rebounded and the Lakers got discombobulated, Bryant badly missed a final chance from well behind the line right before time expired.
''When he missed and they got the rebound, my heart sank again,'' Hibbert said. ''But it worked out somehow.''
Darren Collison scored 14 points for the Pacers, who have stayed competitive despite their obvious lack of offensive firepower this season by playing stellar defense. Only Utah has held opponents to a lower field-goal percentage this season than Indiana and the Lakers, which had both allowed 43.1 percent shooting entering the game.
Yet Bryant wouldn't allow the Pacers to run away. He scored 23 points in the second half as the two-time defending champions rallied, pulling to 93-92 on Pau Gasol's free throws in the final minute.
Gasol had 13 points and 12 rebounds while getting outplayed by Hibbert down low, and Lamar Odom added 15 points and 11 rebounds in the Lakers' second straight loss after a five-game winning streak. Los Angeles lost in a game that also went down to the final minute at Utah on Friday night.
''We played a lethargic game,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ''I was encouraging them from the first timeout ... to play harder. I thought they outhustled us, and obviously it paid off for them.''
Los Angeles' home streak against Indiana was its longest against any opponent, but the Lakers dropped to 8-2 at home this season. The Pacers earned just their fifth road win over the Lakers in 38 trips.
Bryant said any criticism of the Lakers' poor shooting and struggling offense was ''ignorant,'' claiming the Lakers won their titles with defense.
''We're going to score points, but we've got to shore up the defense,'' Bryant said. ''We've got to execute better. We missed too many assignments, and we didn't play with the right energy. ... We can't put all the pressure on the shooters to make shots all the time, because then they start thinking about their shot instead of just relaxing and shooting it.''
Bryant scored 15 consecutive points for the Lakers to close the third quarter, and the Lakers chopped Indiana's lead to five points with a 13-3 run into the fourth. Indiana held the Lakers to one basket in the next five-plus minutes, but Artest hit a 3-pointer with 2:43 left to trim the Pacers' lead to 89-86.
''We know he's going to score,'' Indiana coach Jim O'Brien said of Bryant. ''The main thing I thought we did an exceptional job of, is we kept running it back at them. We're one of the top defensive teams in the league right now. If we defend, then we can win.''
The Pacers traded baskets with Bryant until Brandon Rush missed a 3-pointer and Gasol hit his free throws. But Gasol then lost track of Hibbert down low, and the center slammed home his final points.
Notes: Lakers rookie Devin Ebanks didn't play while battling the flu, leaving Los Angeles with just 11 players in uniform. G T.J. Ford played for Indiana despite a similar illness. ... Fans near courtside included Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stedman Graham and Arsenio Hall.