Kobe Bryant scores 35 points to lead Lakers in 106-99 win over Sonics
Bryant scored six of his 35 points in the final 3:51 and the Lakers overcame three turnovers in the final 1 1-2 minutes to beat Seattle 106-99 Tuesday night, snapping a three-game skid and sending the SuperSonics to their fifth straight loss.
Rookie Kevin Durant had 25 points for Seattle, 12 of them in the final 6:05. But it wasn’t enough to overcome a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit.
“They made it closer than I thought they were going to,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I didn’t like the way we finished up. We had a 15-point lead, then we were wandering around defensively and started doing some things I didn’t like. It’s the sign of a young team that’s still unbridled and still undisciplined. I’m not happy with that game, but it was a win.”
The Sonics are a league-worst 2-13 in their first season under coach P.J. Carlesimo—matching the poorest start in franchise history. They began their inaugural 1967-68 season 2-14 under Al Bianchi. Seattle has lost 14 consecutive games against Western Conference teams, including five last season.
“We’re getting better and better and we’re playing harder,” Durant said. “During crunch time, I think that’s when we’re really cracking down. But we have to do that the whole game. Early in the year, we were giving the game away in the fourth quarter. Now we’re giving it away in the third quarter. We just have to be more focused coming out of halftime.”
The Lakers had a 77-67 lead with about 2 1-2 minutes left in the third when Seattle’s Nick Collison drove to the basket and sustained a cut below the right eye as Bryant took a swipe at the ball. Collison wasn’t able to take the free throws—so under NBA rules, he was ineligible to play the rest of the game and Jackson was allowed to select any one of the Sonics to replace Collison at the line.
“I’ve never liked the rule,” Jackson said. “Obviously we’ve had a number of guys over the years that have had to shoot foul shots and come out and get taped or glued for a cut, like a boxer. But when you lose a ballplayer like that, it hurts you a lot.”
Jordan Farmar hit a 3-pointer, his first points of the game, to give Los Angeles a 92-79 lead with 8:11 to play and connected again from behind the arc less than 2 minutes later. The Sonics got as close as 102-97 on Durant’s three-point play with 13.2 seconds left, but Bryant helped clinch it with a pair of free throws.
“We were a little sloppy in the second half,” Bryant said, “but we managed to iron it out and coast to a victory.”
In a game that included nine lead changes and ties, neither team led by more than seven points until Lakers guard Derek Fisher sank three free throws for a 75-66 advantage after he was fouled by Earl Watson behind the arc with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
Bryant had 14 points in the first quarter, including a 19-foot jumper that edged him past 1985 NBA scoring champ Bernard King for 32nd place on the all-time list. Bryant’s next target is John Stockton, who is 25 points ahead of him.
Jackson handles timeouts differently than his peers. First, he huddles with his assistants instead of talking to the players right away at the bench and drawing up plays. “I like to collect information from my coaches—go over our past possessions, look at how many successful possessions we’ve had and how many turnovers we’ve got,” Jackson said. “We’re competing with a sound system most of the time, a dance crew, or something else going on that’s a noise factor. So I like to tell the players that this is the time they can support each other, talk to each other, towel off and get a drink. We only need about 20 seconds with them, anyway. I mean, I’m not going to give them a lecture on how to play basketball. But if we have something we have to correct, we go in there a little bit earlier.” … Among the sellout crowd was new Angels CF Torii Hunter, in town for Wednesday’s introductory press conference. One thing he has in common with the Lakers—he moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota. “I’ve been here a couple of times, but this is my first Laker game as an L.A. player,” Hunter said. “These guys treat you with so much respect, man, and I love it. They’re spoiling me already.”