Lakers, Kobe win a game of h-o-a-r-s-e
Kobe Bryant was limping and wheezing, but he had enough left to throw a few teammates on his aching back.
Lamar Odom wondered when he would feel like he did earlier in the season, but he went out and stirred memories of his first 20 games.
The Lakers, for those who figured they were down or done, unfurled one of their best victories of the season against one of the league’s stingiest home teams, beating the Utah Jazz at its own game in a physical 102-94 victory Monday at EnergySolutions Arena.
For future reference, it was a possible first-round playoff matchup. For the present day, it was the Lakers’ most impressive victory since winning Jan. 17 in San Antonio.
Bryant rang up 35 points and three franchise records, and afterward mumbled into a semicircle of cameras and audio recorders, too spent to do anything else because of strep throat, back spasms and a hyperextended left elbow.
He set a franchise record by making 14 free throws in the second quarter. He tied two others with 15 free-throw attempts in the second quarter and 16 free throws made in the first half.
That he played at all would be somewhat surprising if it were any player other than Bryant.
Known for his high threshold for pain, he stayed in bed all day because of his back, tried to conserve his energy and raspy voice, and then came out and played 44 minutes. He suffered an elbow injury after hitting the deck on a hard foul and later briefly left toward the end of the third quarter because his back flared up.
He made only seven of 21 from the field, but hit 21 of 24 free throws and added eight rebounds and four assists.
“If I was feeling a little wimpish, I got a good dose of [General] Patton today on AMC,” Bryant said. “That knocked the yellow belly right out of me.”
Coach Phil Jackson hadn’t seen Bryant all day and didn’t know an hour before the game whether he would play. After watching Bryant lead the Lakers to a third consecutive win, there wasn’t much for Jackson to say.
“Some players are remarkable in that regard,” Jackson said. “They can come out and perform and have a lot of things going wrong with them and still have that memory and idea of how to play the game and shoot the ball.”
Not to be overlooked were the 19 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists accumulated by Odom, who hadn’t done anything like this in his other 15 games since coming back from a sprained knee.
He looked confident in his decision-making and decisive in his drives, welcome signs of success for the Lakers.
“His floor game was great,” Jackson said.
And a relief to Odom.
“It’s getting there,” he said. “I’m starting to feel a little bit more confident. It takes time for you to get confident physically and mentally.”
Smush Parker had 24 points and helped spark the Lakers’ quick start by making his first six shots.
He also gave the Jazz an opening by fouling Derek Fisher as the former Laker made a three-pointer with 46.1 seconds to play, a four-point play that brought Utah to within 96-91.
Fisher then hit another three-pointer to make it a two-point game, but Bryant, Maurice Evans and Odom each hit two free throws in the final 20 seconds to push the game away from Utah.
With that, the Lakers shoved their recent six-game losing streak a bit further into the past.
Victory was worth savoring against Utah, which owned the league’s second-best home record, 22-6, before Monday.
“It’s always good to win these type of games because you don’t know if you’re going to see them in the playoffs or not,” Bryant said. “If we do see them in the playoffs, we know it’s going to be a very physical series. Personally, I wanted to make sure that we were ready to respond to that challenge.”