Nobody does it better
Even though Kobe Bryant called the game, uh, “garbage,” his last-second winner Tuesday gave him six this season, the most in an NBA season since Elias Sports Bureau began tracking the stat in 2000-01.
Denver forward Carmelo Anthony had five in 2005-06, according to Elias, which defines the category as a shot that proved to be a game-winner in the last 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime.
With the Lakers taking a day off Wednesday, what else was there to do but recap Bryant’s run?
It began with an off-balance, 27-foot three-point bank shot as time expired to give the Lakers a 108-107 victory over Miami on Dec. 4.
Then Bryant backed down Charlie Bell in the high post and drilled a 15-foot turn-around at the buzzer for a 107-106 overtime victory over Milwaukee on Dec. 16.
On New Year’s Day, he took a pass from Pau Gasol, found himself open after Sergio Rodriguez slipped, and made a three-pointer from the left corner with no time left for a 109-108 victory over Sacramento.
On the last day of January, he buried a 16-footer over Ray Allen with 7.3 seconds left, leading to a 90-89 victory over Boston.
His three-pointer with 4.3 seconds left meant a 99-98 victory over Memphis on Feb. 23 and marked a successful return from a five-game absence because of an ankle injury.
On Tuesday, Bryant shook free of Antoine Wright and late-arriving Andrea Bargnani to hit a fadeaway 17-footer from the right side with 1.9 seconds left, providing a 109-107 victory over Toronto.
In all, Bryant leads the league with 20 game-winning shots since 2000-01, using the last-second parameters established by Elias. Vince Carter has 13 such shots with a variety of teams over the same span.
Bryant wasn’t happy with his latest effort -- make that his team’s latest effort -- in a near-loss to the Raptors.
The Lakers had fewer rebounds and assists and were undeniably lethargic or lackadaisical, depending on perspective, leading Bryant to say afterward that, “This thing tonight was garbage.”
Gasol, for one, had nicer things to say.
“His capability of finishing games and knocking down those shots under that much pressure...it’s just easy money to him,” Gasol said. “We’re all very impressed. No matter how many times he does it, it’s still incredible and it’s still unbelievable. I give him a lot of credit because not many players -- one, maybe, or two -- could knock down those kind of shots.”
Bryant isn’t perfect in the final 10 seconds this season.
He missed a 20-footer with 1.2 seconds to play in a 96-94 loss Sunday in Orlando and missed a fadeaway three-point attempt with a high degree of difficulty as time expired in a 106-105 loss to Toronto in January.
This time, the Raptors threw their arms up in frustration, not jubilation.
“It’s no secret that he’s going to take the shot there and that they’re going to run the play for him and we’ve all seen it happen,” Toronto Coach Jay Triano said. “He’s put in the time and effort with his work and he’s become pretty efficient doing that. We dodged one in Toronto when he had a shot at the buzzer and tonight we ran two guys at him and he still makes it.”
Then there’s reality.
The Lakers ended a three-game losing streak by beating Toronto, but simply weren’t sharp in front of a moribund Staples Center crowd that didn’t sense excellence at work in the first 47-plus minutes.
“Overall, we are not playing great,” said Ron Artest, who continued a string of poor shooting by making one of five shots.
In his last three games, Artest has made four of 24 shots (16.7%).
The Lakers have also stalled in transition, scoring only four fastbreak points against Orlando and 10 against the up-tempo Raptors.