LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kobe Bryant has had so many buzzer-beaters and 50-point games, he’s lost count. When he blocks a dunk attempt—now that’s memorable.
The Los Angeles Lakers were leading by seven points midway through the fourth quarter when Bryant made the ultimate defensive stop on Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko. The two-time NBA scoring champ then got six of his 33 points in the final 4 1/2 minutes to secure a 119-109 victory over the Jazz on Sunday night.
“I really really enjoy that challenge, because it’s a mano-a-mano type of thing where somebody challenges you to meet you at the rim,” Bryant said after his third block of the season and 470th of his career.
“When you have that type of situation, they see that you’re not going to take a charge because you’re just lining them up. So they know they have to either go over the top of you or go through you. I saw him coming down on the wing, and I just tried to time it and get up there and see if I could catch him. I timed it pretty well.”
Playing their second straight game against a reigning division champion, the Lakers made it two in a row after humbling the Suns 119-98 at Phoenix on Friday night. Bryant was 13-for-19 from the field and fellow guard Derek Fisher added 19 points, including a career-high 13 free throws.
Andrew Bynum had 15 points and nine rebounds off the bench before fouling out with 55 seconds to play.
“Andrew’s always a little bit more reserved and a little bit more shy when he plays, but it looks like he’s starting to come out of his shell a little bit,” Bryant said. “I think having games like this,—particularly against a team like Utah that’s very physical—I think it helps out his confidence a lot.”
“We have the talent and strength to do a lot of great things, but we have to put the game on the court,” Boozer said.
Trailing 82-81 after three quarters, the Lakers pulled ahead 88-82 on Bynum’s fast-break dunk and a pair of driving layups by backup point guard Jordan Farmar, the second one resulting in a three-point play with 10:44 remaining. Farmar finished with 12 points.
“Jordan’s always had that chip on his shoulder, and I’ve liked him from day one because of that,” Bryant said. “He did a fantastic job, and that’s what we need him to do. He did it well for us last year and he continues to get better.”
The Lakers built their lead to 109-96 with 3:11 to play, getting a three-point play from Bynum and a pair of baskets by Bryant to help settle the outcome.
“We had a big second half,” coach Phil Jackson said. “Our second (unit) came off the bench and really gave us a ballgame. There was good energy.”
Fisher missed all seven of his shots in the first half, but made his first three field-goal attempts in the second half and added a pair of free throws that gave the Lakers a 72-71 lead with 3:54 left in the third quarter. Fisher played the final 4:49 after Farmer gave the Lakers the spark they needed at both ends of the court.
Neither team led by more than six points in the first half, which ended with Utah taking a 51-46 lead on a 3-pointer by Williams and a dunk by Kirilenko in the final 39 seconds.
The Lakers led 25-21 after one quarter despite committing eight turnovers in the first 9 minutes. Three of them were by Bryant—two on errant passes and one on a palming violation. Los Angeles finished with 19 turnovers.
Fisher spent last season with the Jazz, playing in all 82 regular-season games. But during the playoffs, his infant daughter Tatum was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in her left eye and Fisher left the team temporarily to accompany his wife Candace to New York to meet with a specialist about possible treatment.
Fisher returned to help the Jazz reach the Western Conference finals, then asked the club to release him with three years left on his contract so he could focus on getting his daughter the best medical care. The club complied, and he ended up signing a three-year, $14 million contract with the Lakers—the team he won three NBA titles with during his first eight years in the league.
The Lakers have removed press row from the floor at the baseline near the home team’s bench and replaced it with 15 courtside seats, each of which goes for $2,300 per game. The total season revenue from the extra seats comes to $1,483,500—including the two extra dates for the preseason Staples Shootout. … The last time the Jazz played the Lakers at Staples Center, Bryant scored 52 points to fuel a 132-102 victory.