Lakers 88, Bulls 81
With Michael Jordan—whose career was defined by late heroics—watching, Bryant scored 12 of his 35 points in the final five minutes Saturday night, sending the Lakers to an 88-81 win over the Bulls.
“I made some pretty big shots for us. I just think about how fun it is to be out there playing the game. I didn’t think about the pain,” Bryant said. “We were kind of stagnant. We didn’t have a good offensive punch, so I picked it up a little bit.”
Did he ever.
After Chicago cut its deficit to two in the final period, Bryant went to work with a spurt of 12 straight Lakers’ points. He drove for two baskets, hit a line-drive jumper and then made a left-handed layup to put the Lakers up 82-74.
But Bryant hit another jumper with 35 seconds to go, then added two free throws with 19 seconds remaining.
Bryant hurt his shoulder for the second time this season against Seattle just over a week ago but has made a quick recovery.
“There are certain things I can and can’t do with the shoulder,” Bryant said. “I just try to play around it and hide it as best that I can.”
Hurting or not, the Bulls simply couldn’t contain Bryant when they had a chance to beat the Lakers at home for a third straight year.
“He was just rising over us and making shots,” Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. “We had a couple times where we did not have a hand up. Other than that, he just hit pretty tough shots, which he normally does.”
Shaquille O’Neal added 16 points and 15 rebounds, passing Hal Greer for 21st place on the career scoring list with 21,591 points.
Karl Malone, in his second game back since missing 39 with a knee injury,had 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
After the game, Jordan, Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Chicago general manager John Paxson—all members of the Bulls’ first three championship teams—met in a hockey locker room for a mini-reunion. … Jackson might have been coaching his final game in Chicago should he not return to the Lakers next season. He led the Bulls to six titles in the 1990s. “I won’t think about it until after the season is over,” Jackson said. “I’m waiting to see how this teams responds, and how well we do is certainly a part of whether I come back or not.” Jackson said his experiences with the Bulls and the Lakers are totally different. He started with Chicago as an assistant and watched the Bulls develop with Jordan before they became a championship team with him as head coach. The Lakers were a younger team that Jackson has helped lead to three titles. “Both of them are highly valued,” Jackson said of the experiences. … Bulls F Jerome Williams missed the game with an ingrown toenail. Ex-Bull Horace Grant was out with a strained hip flexor. … The Lakers are 7-3 against the Bulls with Jackson as coach. … Greer had 21,586 points. … Jackson and former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause feuded at times, but banners honoring them hang side by side in the United Center. Krause’s was unveiled earlier this season. “You know I got to see Jerry Krause’s banner this morning, which is always a sightto see,” Jackson said.