Lakers spiked at the finish
Bad times for the Lakers: Home was just as unsuccessful as the road.
Instead of discovering victory after a long, mostly unhappy venture through the Eastern Conference, the Lakers stumbled across something much more unsettling Tuesday at Staples Center: their first four-game losing streak of the season.
Lamar Odom continued to struggle and airballed a 21-footer at the buzzer as the Lakers fell to the New York Knicks, 107-106.
They have one more game, Thursday at home against Cleveland, before the All-Star break. They are now 30-23, a mere three victories ahead of their pace through 53 games a year ago.
It was an off night all around for Odom, who was scoreless in the first half and finished with 12 points on five-for-12 shooting. Kobe Bryant had 31 points, and his 11-foot leaner gave the Lakers a 106-105 edge with 29.9 seconds left, but it was short-lived.
Quentin Richardson missed a three-point attempt at the other end, but David Lee got the rebound and Jamal Crawford found Eddy Curry for a dunk with 7.1 seconds to play.
After a timeout, Odom inbounded the ball to Ronny Turiaf, got the ball right back and failed to shake Knicks forward Lee before getting off his unsuccessful attempt.
“Diagramed for Lamar to get to the basket,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “He couldn’t get there though.”
The last shot, for once it seemed, wasn’t called for Bryant.
“It was time to go somewhere else, look for an easy shot,” Jackson said.
Said Odom: “Got a good look, took a step back. Just missed. David Lee did a good job of contesting it. He might have gotten a little piece of it.”
Jackson, normally a conservative, emotionless figure on the sideline, was animated and angry throughout the second half.
With the Lakers trailing by a point with 25 seconds left in the third quarter, Odom took a rebound after a Knicks miss, dribbled the length of the court and failed to hear Jackson whistling for him to stop and set up the final shot of the quarter. Jackson then stood for several seconds, his hands in his pockets and an irritated look on his face.
Jackson subsequently yelled at Odom during a timeout and was again notably upset midway through the fourth quarter, spiking a crumpled piece of paper to the court after Steve Francis made a three-point shot to give the Knicks a 95-91 edge.
“Our guards had a hard time containing their guards and they were getting middle penetration,” Jackson said.
To a man, the Lakers were glad to be home after fumbling their way to a 3-5 trip. Consecutive losses to Detroit, Toronto and Cleveland made them want to get back that much quicker.
“Shangri-La” was how Bryant expressed it ahead of time.
Bryant didn’t get a chance to play against the Knicks two weeks ago in New York because the league had suspended him for a game.
The Lakers lost, somewhat predictably, 99-94.
Bryant made nine of 20 shots Tuesday and had four assists.
The Lakers did get a pocket of good news regarding injured center Kwame Brown.
Out since Dec. 31 because of a severely sprained ankle and deep bone bruise, Brown said he felt better and could return earlier than an established timetable of three to five more weeks.
Brown has been told to wear a medical boot for three weeks, but he hopes to get it off earlier.
“It feels better than the three weeks, so I’m going to talk to the doctor right after All-Star break and see if I could try to scoot that up a little bit,” Brown said.
Not all the news was good for Brown, who acknowledged trying to “rush a little faster than we should have” after first injuring his ankle.
There was one other issue.
"[I’ll] just try to go out there and shoot as much as I can and feel the ball because I already can’t catch, so if I wait this long and not touch the ball, you’re going to see something special,” he said.
Lately, the Lakers haven’t demonstrated anything special.
“Right now, we’ve got to grip up a little bit and just get one,” Odom said.
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Since winning at San Antonio on Jan. 17, the Lakers have dropped 10 of 14 games:
*--* Jan. 18 at Dallas L, 114-95 Jan. 20 New Orleans at Okla. City L, 113-103 Jan. 22 vs. Golden State W,108-103 Jan. 26 vs. Charlotte L, 106-97 Jan. 28 vs. San Antonio L, 96-94 Jan. 30 at New York L, 99-94 Jan. 31 at Boston W, 111-98 Feb. 2 at Indiana L, 95-84 Feb. 3 at Washington W, 118-102 Feb. 5 at Atlanta W, 90-83 Feb. 8 at Detroit L, 93-78 Feb. 9 at Toronto L, 96-92 Feb. 11 at Cleveland L, 99-90 Feb. 13 vs. New York L, 107-106
KEYS TO THE GAME
* Lamar Odom continued to be stuck in a shooting slump since coming back from a knee injury. He was scoreless in the first half and made five of 12 shots overall. Odom shot an air ball on a fadeaway 21-footer as time expired in the fourth quarter.
* Smush Parker made only three of 13 shots and finished with nine points.
* The Lakers’ defense was again passive: The Knicks made 50% of their shots and scored 90 points in the last three quarters.