Phil Jackson doesn’t set New Year’s resolutions. Never has. Never will.
But the Lakers’ coach wrote something on the locker-room whiteboard before the game Friday against the Sacramento Kings. The date happened to be Jan. 1. Coincidence? It depended on perspective.
Jackson wrote that the Lakers had a 25-6 record, comparing it slightly unfavorably to last season’s 26-5 pace through 31 games.
“Just a reminder that this is a team that wanted to go out and challenge the win record, 72 wins,” Jackson said.
Not that Kobe Bryant needed a reminder.
He drilled a three-point basket at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 109-108 victory over the Kings at Staples Center.
The Lakers aren’t on pace to threaten the regular-season accomplishments of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, but they scratched out another victory on Bryant’s third last-second saver of the season.
On Dec. 4, he beat Miami on a 27-foot three-point bank shot. On Dec. 16 at Milwaukee, he crushed the Bucks with a 15-foot turnaround.
On Friday, he rescued the Lakers from a 20-point deficit.
“He’s right with Michael [Jordan] in that kind of a breadth that you look at,” Jackson said.
Bryant had 39 points on 13-for-27 shooting. The Lakers certainly needed his last shot.
He took a pass from Pau Gasol in the left corner after making contact with Kings guard Sergio Rodriguez, who slipped and fell, leaving Bryant with an open look.
“It’s always exciting to hit those,” said Bryant, who played all but 45 seconds and smiled as he explained that Jackson diagramed a three-point shot, not a two-pointer that could have forced overtime. “I think he wanted to get out of here. We were playing like we were stuck in mud. It didn’t seem like we had any energy. He wanted me to get a good look at a three and knock it down.”
The Lakers were in position to win only because Ime Udoka, a 78.6% free-throw shooter this season, missed two free throws with 4.8 seconds left and the Kings ahead, 108-106.
The Lakers weren’t great on the first day of the new year.
There were scattered boos in the first half, this time after Omri Casspi’s dunk gave the Kings a 28-23 lead late in the first quarter.
The boos became full-fledged after Jon Brockman’s layup put the Kings up 15 with 9:12 left in the second quarter. Good thing there weren’t any foam-finger giveaways.
There was only surprised silence when the Lakers fell behind by 20 on Udoka’s three-pointer with 5:06 left in the second quarter.
By the way, the Kings (14-18), who got 30 points from Spencer Hawes, were without their two best players. Rookie guard Tyreke Evans sat out because of a sprained right ankle, costing the Kings averages of 20.3 points and 4.9 assists, and leading scorer Kevin Martin continued to be sidelined because of a fractured wrist.
The Lakers were short-staffed as well, forward Ron Artest sitting out a fourth consecutive game because of a concussion, though he was “optimistic” he would practice soon, Jackson said, and might return next week.
It was a strange night.
On one hand, Derek Fisher made only one of 10 shots, the Lakers’ reserves were badly outscored by those of the Kings, 28-11, and their defense continued to slip without Artest.
On the other hand, Lamar Odom came alive in the second half, scoring 16 of his season-high 20 points, and Bryant shook off a forgettable first half in which he made only three of 11 shots.
Then there was this: The Lakers hadn’t won a game in which they faced a 20-point deficit since December 2006, when they came back to beat Houston in double overtime, 112-101.
Win, they did, and they can thank Bryant for the ride.
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