Kobe Bryant and Lakers stop skid at two, the hard way
By Mike Bresnahan
Los Angeles Times
February 1, 2011
The Lakers continued to do everything the difficult way on another odd day for the franchise.
Their latest gaffe almost came against the underwhelming Houston Rockets, though this one went the Lakers' direction, eventually, in a 114-106 overtime victory Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant had 32 points and 11 assists as declarations of uninspired play kept circling around the Lakers.
Coach Phil Jackson said the "door's open for business" to make trades, and the legendary Magic Johnson said the Lakers "are in trouble," but the home team finished with a victory over the Rockets . . . barely.
It shouldn't have gone past the fourth quarter, the Lakers leading by six with 1:56 to play, but there they were, dragged into their first overtime game of the season.
Aaron Brooks found Luis Scola all alone under basket for an easy layup with 5.5 seconds left to play in regulation, and Lamar Odom's three-point attempt rimmed out at the buzzer.
"I didn't like the way we closed the game [in regulation]," Jackson said. "Defensively we couldn't make stops. A little disappointed, but we found a way to come back and defend better in the overtime."
Bryant's five-foot runner provided a 110-106 lead with 28.3 seconds left in overtime as the Lakers survived, a strange thing to say against a team that came in with a 22-27 record, 9-17 on the road.
The Lakers (34-15) hadn't lost three consecutive home games since February 2007 but made it closer than expected.
Odom had 20 points and 20 rebounds in his 32nd start this season. Pau Gasol had 26 points and 16 rebounds.
Andrew Bynum sat out because of a bone bruise in his left knee, an injury he sustained when Boston forward Paul Pierce banged into him while trying to box him out during Sunday's game.
A Tuesday morning MRI exam did not reveal any structural damage in the knee, which was not the one that required surgery last July.
"Bone bruises are a little bit difficult to just say when a guy's going to come back," Jackson said.
Bynum said he planned to play Thursday against San Antonio, saying of his knee, "It's good."
The Lakers as a whole weren't so strong.
Kevin Martin had 30 points and Scola bothered the Lakers down low with 24 points and 15 rebounds.
It could have been worse for the Lakers, who had only 10 assists Sunday against Boston, their lowest in a home game since 1960. They improved in that area with 22 against Houston.
The Lakers led after the first quarter, 31-23, but their next three were unremarkable. In fact, they endured some boos from the crowd after Houston took a five-point lead in the third quarter.
The Lakers can't play this way Thursday if they want to beat the Spurs.
In fact, Johnson said he wanted to "see more from them" in general, though he said he was eager to see them play San Antonio.
Said Bryant: "We'll be ready, for sure."
Bryant was less committal when asked what he thought the Lakers should do before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
"What do I think?" Bryant said. "I think I should just let Mitch [Kupchak] do his job."
Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.