Kobe able to zero in at the end
The Lakers couldn’t possibly be thrilled with beating the injury-ravaged New Orleans Hornets, though Kobe Bryant was laughing afterward.
He was relieved his three-for-21 shooting effort didn’t cost his team a victory.
The Lakers beat an NBA franchise Saturday, allegedly, their 88-85 victory reflected in the standings as such, though the Hornets were closer to Development League material.
It made Bryant’s woes much more obvious.
He set a slew of personal marks with his inaccuracy but made the go-ahead three-pointer with 20.2 seconds left, surprising almost nobody at Staples Center.
He finished with 11 points against a team that had only eight healthy players and owned the worst record in the Western Conference.
“Fatigue might have something to do with it,” Bryant said.
Uh-oh, the dreaded F-word.
Bryant, 33, leads the league in scoring but is third in minutes per game. The compressed lockout schedule isn’t helping him or the Lakers, who have played 52 games in 98 days as part of the wild dash to play 66 in 121 days.
Saturday marked Bryant’s worst accuracy (14.3%) in 575 career games with at least 20 shots. He was almost as bad two weeks ago, making only three of 20 against Utah.
It got so bad in the third quarter Saturday that the crowd stood whenever Bryant shot ... and sighed after he missed.
He shook his head in frustration after missing a three-point attempt as time expired in the third quarter. He was 0 for 15 at the time.
His late three-pointer Saturday, his only successful one in eight tries, came in the 50,332nd minute of his career, including playoffs.
So, uh, what’s his plan to get through this fatigue?
“You figure out ways to work through it,” he said. “I have a great team here and a lot of support.
“The schedule’s a little crazy. But I’m fine. It’s going to be OK. I’m going to figure it out. I always have.”
The Lakers (32-20) can’t offer much relief.
Their starters rarely sit the entire fourth quarter because the Lakers can’t hold large leads, watching another one melt away Saturday as a 14-point first-quarter edge eventually turned into a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Another problem: The Lakers haven’t had a true backup shooting guard since Shannon Brown left as a free agent for Phoenix before the season.
Jason Kapono couldn’t fill the role and was traded to Cleveland. Rookie Andrew Goudelock has shown some good scoring bursts but hasn’t left the bench in five games, leaving the Lakers with point guard Steve Blake and small forward Matt Barnes as Bryant’s backups.
Bryant played a little more than 38 minutes Saturday, near his 38.6 average coming into the game.
“Obviously a couple minutes less would be ideal,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. “Hopefully I can get his minutes down from what it is throughout the rest of the year.”
Bryant is shooting 42.1%, his lowest accuracy since his rookie season (41.7%).
The San Antonio Spurs sometimes sit older players for an entire game, but neither Bryant nor Brown have seemed interested in that approach.
Before Saturday, Bryant never missed more than 11 shots to start a game or more than 13 consecutive attempts anywhere in a game.
He did, however, beat Jarrett Jack with a three-pointer to put the Lakers ahead, 86-85, as former teammate Trevor Ariza smiled briefly and shook his head on the Hornets’ bench.
“I’m stubborn. That’s probably what it is,” Bryant said. “If I’d have missed that shot, everybody would have killed me.”
After a timeout, Bryant pumped a fist, stuck out his tongue and exhaled with puffed cheeks as he went to the bench. Pau Gasol blocked Jason Smith’s attempt at a tying three-pointer.
Meanwhile, the Hornets (13-39) had almost as many players absent as eligible for the game.
Ariza, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry and Gustavo Ayon sat out because of injuries or personal reasons.
The Lakers led at halftime, 43-39, as fans reacted with quiet indifference. It was rarely easier to hear players calling out defensive switches than it was the first half.
Fans reacted more strongly after halftime, booing for a second consecutive game as the Lakers fell behind.
“I shot 0 for 15,” Bryant said. “That’s why [the Hornets] were in the game. It was just one of those horrible, horrible games.”
BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX
It’s cold inside
Kobe Bryant had his worst career shooting game Saturday, going three for 21 from the field against the Hornets:
*--* FGM FGA SCORE 0 5 Lakers lead, 20-14 *--*
*--* FGM FGA SCORE 0 2 Lakers lead, 43-39 *--*
*--* FGM FGA SCORE 0 8 Hornets lead, 67-61 *--*
*--* FGM FGA SCORE 3 6 Lakers win, 88-85 *--*