It wasn’t special or pretty, and definitely not pretty special, but the Lakers will take it, just the same.
The end of their three-game losing streak came Tuesday against the overmatched Seattle SuperSonics, a tight game at halftime turning into a 106-99 sigh of relief for the Lakers at Staples Center.
The Lakers could have used some amusement after their dour home loss Sunday against New Jersey, but there wasn’t much excitement afterward because the opponent and the first half were nothing to celebrate.
Despite the SuperSonics’ place at the bottom of the Western Conference, the score was tied at halftime, 54-54. The boos at Staples Center had already been heard, the frustration mounting midway through the second quarter as the Lakers fell behind by seven points.
It didn’t stay that way, which was a good thing for the Lakers. Losses to teams that enter with 2-12 records have a way of playing with confidence, in a subliminally frightful way.
At the end, though, fans cheered giddily for free tacos, part of a fast-food promotion for those in attendance when the Lakers win and hold the opponent to under 100 points.
“There’s no sighing. It was just relief,” Coach Phil Jackson said. “That’s an old Alka-Seltzer commercial.”
Kobe Bryant played a well-rounded game and also happened to pass Bernard King for 32nd on the all-time NBA scoring list. Bryant had 35 points on 12-for-22 shooting against the Sonics and now has 19,686 points in his career. He also had eight rebounds and six assists Tuesday.
Lamar Odom had 20 points and eight rebounds, and Derek Fisher had 14 points and eight assists.
On the minus side for the Lakers, Vladimir Radmanovic continued to slide, scoring two points on one-for-three shooting after missing all 10 of his shots against the Nets.
The Lakers’ bench was also a non-factor, getting outscored by the SuperSonics’ reserves, 33-23.
“A win’s a win, but we can play better,” Odom said.
What can improve?
“Everything,” Odom said.
That the Lakers needed a victory was an understatement. It was surprising to see how quickly a 7-3 record turned into 7-6, what with a poor fourth quarter in Milwaukee, a poor four quarters in Boston and a sad second half against New Jersey.
But the Lakers took the third quarter against Seattle, 31-19, and managed to survive a late SuperSonics rally.
It was a quirk of a game, with a rare rule put in play when Seattle center Nick Collison was fouled in the third quarter. He was scratched in the eye and could not shoot two free throws, so the Lakers got to pick any player from the SuperSonics’ bench to shoot them.
They settled on center Mouhamed Sene. He made the first one and missed the second.
The SuperSonics didn’t have much to cheer about either. Rookie Kevin Durant had 25 points, and Chris Wilcox had 18, but that was it for impact from their starters.
It’s a long road getting longer for the SuperSonics, who came into the game with an average margin of defeat of 12.5 points.
Owner Clay Bennett is battling the city of Seattle over an arena lease agreement and wants to move the team to Oklahoma City, but the rebuilding actually began during the off-season, when All-Stars Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen were ushered out of town.
“They made it closer than I thought they were going to,” Jackson said. “I’m not happy with that game, [but] it was a win and it gives us some momentum as we go along this week.”