Lakers almost drop everything but beat Golden State, 124-121


Say this about the Lakers: Every game is an adventure.

The Lakers knew they could beat the Golden State Warriors, so they joined them most of the game, running and gunning without a care or a conscience on the way to a surprisingly tough time against one of the NBA’s worst teams.

After a first-half deficit, the Lakers returned to a somewhat deliberate offense and a defense that no longer looked like they were playing pick-up games at Venice Beach . . . for the most part.

The Lakers outlasted the Warriors, 124-121, Monday at Oracle Arena, a testimony to, uh, well, it wasn’t really clear.

Andrew Bynum had a good game when he wasn’t turning the ball over eight times, finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Kobe Bryant had 29 points and a staggering nine turnovers. Pau Gasol had 26 points on efficient 10-for-13 shooting.

After incurring some wobbly play away from Staples Center earlier this month, the Lakers have won two in a row on the road, though this one wasn’t nearly as impressive as Friday’s victory in Phoenix.

With the Lakers up, 123-121, Bryant made only one of two free-throw attempts with 8.6 seconds left, giving the Warriors one last chance after a timeout.

Stephen Curry was long on an open three-point attempt, but Monta Ellis took the rebound, dribbled hurriedly to the top of the arc and heaved a fade-away from 26 feet with 0.8 seconds left. The ball bounced once, twice, three times on the rim before falling off to the left.

The Lakers had survived . . . barely. They shot 56% and outrebounded the Warriors, 56-25, but were almost undone by 24 turnovers. The Warriors had only five. The last time the Lakers had at least 19 more turnovers than an opponent was April 1985 in an overtime win over Portland. They had 30, the Trail Blazers 10.

“It was weird. It was definitely weird,” forward Ron Artest said. “Twenty-something turnovers. It should not have been that way. A lot of unforced, mental errors. We knew we could win . . . and slipped up.”

Bryant seemed relieved when it was over. “We’re not going to see anything remotely close to them in the playoffs,” he said.

The Lakers (49-18) and Warriors (18-48) have played a whopping seven times this season, including three exhibition games.

“It’s a lot of games,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said beforehand. “They have some confidence about what they can get accomplished against us.”

Apparently so.

The Lakers’ average margin of victory in the three regular-season games was 16.3 points before Monday, but it was apparent from the start that this game would be tight.

The Warriors had undrafted free agents playing at center (Chris Hunter) and power forward (Anthony Tolliver), so it was a good bet the Lakers would try to pound the ball down low. But it didn’t happen successfully until the second half.

In fact, the Lakers had 11 three-point attempts in the first half, obviously getting caught up in the Warriors’ run-and-gun style on the way to a 65-59 deficit at the break.

More telling, the Lakers had an inexcusable 15 turnovers in the first half. Bynum had six and Bryant had five. Two of Bynum’s turnovers were lazy passes that were converted immediately into layups at the other end. Not smart basketball, to say the least.

But the Lakers slowed down the action in the second half, almost predictably.

They pounded the ball down low to Bynum and Gasol, again and again, and Bryant scored on some post-up attempts as well.

They allowed 22 points in the third quarter and stopped taking so many three-point attempts so early in the shot clock.

Still, the Lakers couldn’t relax until Ellis missed at the buzzer. Curry had 29 points and nine assists for the Warriors.

Before the Lakers board their charter bus Tuesday and head 90 miles northeast to Sacramento, they’ll want to revisit Monday’s game.

More of the same could be in store tonight against the up-tempo Kings.