Home Page         Bio         Site map

Friday, January 20, 2006

Bryant's 51 points were not enough

The Lakers have played more games than any other this season in the NBA. And no player in the tournament has made more big fourth quarters than Kobe Bryant.

But this time the story was sad for them. What looked like a fantastic night for the Lakers as Bryant and Lamar Odom leaped to bump chests with 35.5 seconds left in regulation ended with an agonizing 118-109 overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings.

"We beat the team, but they won." Odom said a deep phrase.

"Many of crazy things can happen in the NBA," Bryant added, "and tonight was one of those nights."

Indeed, with only the clock standing between them and their seventh win in eight games, the Lakers gave away the game, winding up in overtime as Brad Miller drilled an improbable 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left.

It wasn't quite payback for Robert Horry's shot in the 2002 Western Conference finals, but the Kings' faithful would take it. Bryant finished with 51 points, the eighth 50-point game of his career, but it was not enough.

If the Lakers thought their days of late-game disappointings were behind them - they had won their previous four games decided by six points or fewer - they were sorely mistaken. They led 102-97 with 35.5 seconds to play as Odom connected on a 3-pointer.

It came after Kobe Bryant, who had taken shots on five consecutive possessions down the stretch, kicked a pass to Odom at the top of the key. He scored just 1 of 5 3-pointers for the night, but hit the shot that counted.

But Odom made a major mistake after Miller made one of two free throws for the Kings. With the Kings electing not to foul, Odom drove to the basket with 16 seconds left on the shot clock.

In the last part, the Lakers could have taken the clock inside of the final 10 seconds, but Odom was called for a charge with 22 seconds remaining against Kenny Thomas. Odom thought the call was questionable, but it was not.

"I take the blame for that one," Odom said. "I should have ran the clock down a little bit more. First time in a long time that my aggressiveness beat me. But I had just hit that shot and I was thinking, 'Get to the basket.'

"I just wish I had put my team in a better place. A flop call on a team that's dead, though, that kind of gave them new life."

The Lakers still had a chance to win, but Mike Bibby (40 points) connected on a 3-pointer to make it 102-101 with 18.7 seconds left. Bryant sank two free throws for the Lakers - he set the franchise record for consecutive foul shots made Thursday - but Sacramento got the ball with a chance to tie.

The Lakers denied Bibby a shot on the Kings' final play of regulation only to watch as Kwame Brown tried to help inside and left Miller alone beyond the arc. Miller, a 32 percent 3-point shooter, drilled the shot.

"I must have stayed at home," Brown told us. "He hit a desperation shot and I should have hugged him closer. I trusted my quickness to get back to him. I got back, I just should have stayed at home."

Jackson let Odom have the final shot of regulation for the Lakers, hoping he would redeem himself, but Odom couldn't connect. The Lakers fell apart in overtime, as they were outscored 14-5 and Odom fouled out.

The Lakers have played 22 games decided by six points or fewer, the most in the NBA. Bryant, meanwhile, leads all players in fourth-quarter scoring, averaging 9.1 points per game.

Kobe Bryant was especially aggressive Thursday against a Sacramento team that was forced to use Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia and Jason Hart on him with Bonzi Wells still injured.

Is important to say that Bryant looked to be up to his old tricks in the final four minutes, taking the game upon himself. He posted up Garcia with the Kings sending Miller to double-team. They couldn't get Bryant, however, to give up the ball.

He pulled up on the right side, pump-faked twice to get Garcia in the air and knocked down a 19-footer. Bryant hit 3 of 5 jumpers down the stretch, including one over the 7-foot Miller.