PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference semifinals; tied 2-2.
Kobe Bryant appears to be using the court as a sanctuary from the courtroom.
After spending most of two days in a Colorado courtroom, Bryant scored 15 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday, leading the Lakers to a 98-90 victory over the Spurs to even the series 2-2.
Bryant pleaded not guilty to his sexual assault charge in Eagle, Colo., on Tuesday afternoon, and arrived at Staples Center in plenty of time for the game. If convicted of felony sexual assault, Bryant would face four years to life in prison, or 20 years to life on probation.
Bryant is averaging 36.5 points in two playoff games on days of a court date. He is averaging 25.8 points in the postseason.
It was the fourth time Bryant has played a game on the same day of a court date, and he is averaging 30.5 points, 6.5 assists and 5.3 assists as the Lakers have gone 4-0.
“I don’t see how he does it,” Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal said. “He’s a fabulous player, probably the best player that ever played the game, especially with all the stuff he’s been going through. And it was a fabulous night for him, a memorable night.”
Bryant had 31 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as the Lakers eliminated Houston in the first round of the playoffs on April 28. In December, he arrived during the first quarter against Denver and made a game-winning jumper as time expired. In March, Bryant showed up an hour before the game and scored 36 points in a victory over Sacramento.
“It’s very draining,” Bryant said of the process. “It feels good to step out on that basketball court, get up and down, compete. It is kind of like a psychiatrist, it takes your mind away from so many things.”
Bryant shot 15-of-27, made 10 of 13 foul shots and added six rebounds and five assists. O’Neal added 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who outscored the Spurs 55-37 in the second half.
After committing 57 turnovers in the first three games, Los Angeles had only two in the first half—both in the last two minutes.
The Spurs, meanwhile, are hoping a return home will help them return to the form that allowed them to win the first two games by 10 points each.
San Antonio has won the last five playoff games at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, including three games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last year.
The Spurs extended their winning streak to 17 games by winning the first two games before the Lakers followed that up with two wins—exactly what happened when the teams met in the in the postseason last year.
“It is very similar,” Spurs star Tim Duncan said. “Let’s hope it continues.”
The Spurs closed last year’s series by winning Games 5 and 6.
Manu Ginobili led the Spurs on Tuesday with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Duncan had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, Tony Parker added 18 points and eight assists, and Hedo Turkoglu had 16 points and seven rebounds for the Spurs.
San Antonio was coming off its first loss since March 23, and has lost two straight for the first time since March 14-15.
“Basically, we did our job, they did their job, so now it’s back to even,” Parker said. “We have to refocus and it’s a big game for us back home in San Antonio.”
Game 6 is Saturday night at Staples Center.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Lakers - Bryant, 25.8 ppg and 6 apg; O’Neal, 12.6 rpg. Spurs - Duncan, 23 ppg and 10.1 rpg; Parker, 7.6 apg.