Lakers, Kobe Bryant beat Bucks at the buzzer
Kobe Bryant had already won a game with an off-balance, 27-foot three-point bank shot, so he tore out a page from an old script and held it up for everybody to see at the Bradley Center.
Bryant backed down the smaller Charlie Bell and drilled a 15-foot turnaround as time expired in the Lakers’ 107-106 overtime victory Wednesday over the Milwaukee Bucks.
No double team to help a defender giving up at least three inches to Bryant. No chance for the Bucks, who played great for 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
“I’ve taken that shot a thousand times,” said Bryant, who had 39 points. “It wasn’t like the Miami game where it was just luck. I make that shot in my sleep.”
The fact the Lakers were even in position to win made Coach Phil Jackson call it a “miraculous” victory.
The Lakers fell behind, 106-100, on Luke Ridnour’s 15-footer with 1:25 left in overtime, but Bryant made a nine-footer and then scored on an awkward shot in the lane. After a long pause, the referees also tacked on a blocking foul on Andrew Bogut. Bryant made the free throw, bringing the Lakers within 106-105 with 48.6 seconds left.
Bucks guard Michael Redd was short on 13-footer with 8.9 seconds left, Ron Artest secured the rebound, and, after a timeout, Bryant took his time backing down Bell.
After the shot, Bryant held both arms over his head and nodded solemnly. He was quickly mobbed by teammates.
“There are a lot of good players in the NBA, then there’s the best player,” forward Lamar Odom said. “Everybody is going to have their time. It’s a couple of guys in the league that’s going to have their time. That’s all I’ve got to say. The best player, the most skills.”
Bryant had a chance to end the game in regulation, but he missed a 16-footer from the left side as time expired in the fourth quarter.
“I told him, ‘Why did you keep us waiting? You had the same situation in regulation,’ ” Coach Phil Jackson said. “Really, he wasted a half-hour of our lives. I just don’t understand that boy at times.”
Jackson was joking. Artest wasn’t a few minutes later.
“Great shot. Bad game,” he said. “Just the way we played, it was a bad game for us. We understand that we did not play well. We didn’t play well a lot this year. We played well in maybe, eight games, probably 10, probably seven, I don’t know.
“We got outhustled. Really, we shouldn’t get outhustled.”
The Lakers (20-4), for all their alleged strengths, were looking at a 4-3 road record until Bryant’s shot. They almost lost to a team that fell to 11-12.
Their screen-and-roll defense was poor, they were stymied at times by the Bucks’ zone defense, and they didn’t always jump out on the Bucks’ three-point shooters. The Bucks also beat them in second-chance points, 16-6.
But the Lakers had Bryant and Pau Gasol, who had an almost-overlooked 26 points and 22 rebounds.
Redd has had his share of high-scoring games against Bryant, and had 25 points Wednesday, but he called the events of the evening “frustrating.”
“It was a game that we had,” Redd said. “Kobe made a tremendous shot at the end of the game. I hate losing to him. He’s a great competitor and it was a great shot. That’s all you can say.”
The Lakers had a strange 24 hours, logging time in three hotels. They awoke in Chicago, took a private bus to Milwaukee and rested there for a few hours before the game. Immediately afterward, they boarded a charter flight for New York and were to arrive early this morning. The Lakers’ next game is Saturday against New Jersey.
The Lakers weren’t great in beating Chicago on Tuesday, so assistant coach Frank Hamblen, who was in charge of preparing the game plan for Milwaukee, sounded an alarm of sorts.
“Our crack ‘scout’ Frank Hamblen already wrote it off as a loss for us,” Jackson said before the game. “He told these guys, ‘You can’t beat them after the way we played last night.’ He’s probably right.”
He was wrong, as was Jackson, and anybody who left the arena thinking the Bucks would win before Bryant’s shot.