Lakers turn it over, and up
It was merely 42 instead of 81, but Kobe Bryant didn’t seem to mind.
Exactly a year after lighting up the Toronto Raptors for the second-most points in NBA history, Bryant left the clutch plays to Luke Walton in a 108-103 Lakers victory over the Golden State Warriors on Monday at Staples Center.
Walton had missed all eight of his shots but hit two big ones in the final two minutes, pushing the Lakers ahead of the revamped Warriors and nudging an ugly loss to New Orleans a little further out of their memories.
“He was carrying his heart on his sleeve out there,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. “He thought everybody was going to cry for him for a second.”
Instead, the Lakers were smiling, armed with the knowledge they ended a two-game losing streak despite turning the ball over 24 times, and that they’ll be getting Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown back at practice this week.
Bryant had 42 points on 11-for-22 shooting, Walton had eight points on two-for-10 shooting and Andrew Bynum had 10 points and a career-best 15 rebounds, plus four blocks.
No four points were bigger than Walton’s.
First, he hit a driving layup to tie the score at 101-101 with 1:44 to play.
He then scored a layup after rebounding Bryant’s missed three-point attempt to give the Lakers a 103-101 lead with 1:11 to play.
“It felt good to get it going,” Walton said. “It felt good to finally get the ball in the dang hole.”
For added measure, Walton forced Stephen Jackson into an off-balance 14-footer that missed with 46.8 seconds to play.
The Lakers were looking for a lift after a three-game trip that ended with losses to Dallas and, less acceptably, New Orleans.
What they got was a tight game against a push-the-pace offense.
It looked like they were in good shape when Smush Parker lobbed the ball to Maurice Evans for a dunk that provided a 95-94 lead with 4:46 to play. Then Warriors guard Baron Davis left with a cramp in his left calf.
But Monta Ellis converted a three-point play, Stephen Jackson hit two free throws and suddenly the Warriors were up, 99-95.
With Walton leading them, the Lakers avoided their first three-game losing streak this season.
“We like that we’ve been able to stop the bleeding early,” Phil Jackson said.
More good news for the Lakers: Odom and Brown are expected to start practicing today after missing a combined 32 games. Odom will likely play Friday against Charlotte, and Brown’s status for the game is a little less clear after he experienced soreness in his right ankle in a Monday morning workout.
The Lakers have pressed onward without them.
“We were able to prevail, I guess is the word you would use,” Jackson said.
Bryant’s game was markedly different from Saturday’s loss to New Orleans, when he took only three shots in the first half, missing them all.
He came out looking to shoot, scoring 21 points in the first half on six-for-11 shooting, including three for five from three-point range.
He finished with a whopping 19 free-throw attempts, making 16.
A year after “81,” Bryant said he said he felt “normal, I guess.”
“It’s cool because a lot of people still talk about it,” he said.
The Warriors were the talk of the league last week after ripping apart their team before the halfway point of the season by engaging in an eight-player trade with Indiana. All four of the new Warriors -- Jackson, Al Harrington, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell -- played in the first half, with Harrington (30 points) and Jackson (13 points) in the starting lineup.
Monday marked only the Warriors’ second game with their new players. They are now 0-2 with them.
The Warriors took an early eight-point lead as the Lakers stumbled from the start, committing 13 turnovers by the time the game was 16 minutes old.
KEYS TO THE GAME
* Kobe Bryant was efficient, making 11 of 22 shots and 16 of 19 free throws. He finished with 42 points.
* The only two shots that Luke Walton made were the ones that counted most -- two layups in the final two minutes, the latter putting the Lakers ahead for good.
* After being out-rebounded in losses to Dallas and New Orleans, the Lakers beat the Warriors on the boards, 51-36.