OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—After 101 minutes of sensational hoops in two days, the Lakers and the Warriors each emerged with one victory and a common desire to hang on to their respective postseason positions.
If they do, these California rivals will meet again next month—though their playoff series will be hard-pressed to live up to this immensely entertaining miniseries.
Lamar Odom made the go-ahead layup with 9.1 seconds left in overtime, and the Lakers shook off the Warriors’ frantic regulation rally to hang on for a 123-119 victory Monday night, avenging their four-point loss one night earlier.
Kobe Bryant scored 23 of his 30 points after halftime while playing with a gash under his left eye, and Odom had 23 points and 21 rebounds as the Lakers reclaimed the Western Conference’s top spot and avenged Sunday night’s 115-111 defeat.
The Lakers overcame a 26-point deficit before losing at home Sunday, and they blew a nine-point lead late in regulation before rallying to win in Oakland. Both games kept fans riveted, with abrupt momentum swings and all manner of late-game heroics—and, unfortunately, one officiating decision that played a large role in the sequel.
“We felt like we should’ve won the game last night, but Stephen (Jackson) made a couple of big shots, and tonight we made plays down the stretch,” said Bryant, who had just two points in overtime under a heavy zone. “They just were not going to let me beat them. We had to trust that we’re going to make plays, and we did.”
Los Angeles couldn’t have done it without Sasha Vujacic, who scored 19 points and hit a 3-pointer with 43 seconds left in overtime.
The Lakers also got a big break from referee Bob Delaney, who called Monta Ellis for a curious offensive foul on Derek Fisher—who didn’t like the call any more than Ellis—before the Warriors could even inbound the ball with 4 seconds left in OT.
“It’s unfortunate, in a situation like that, that we didn’t get an opportunity to get a shot up,” said Baron Davis, who had 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. “You can’t blame it all on the last play, but you can’t blame it on our effort, either. I think both games, going down to the wire, they’re good games.”
From the screaming, bipartisan sellout crowd to the coaches’ no-tomorrow strategies, the game felt an awful lot like a playoff preview for the first-place Lakers and the eighth-place Warriors. Nelson kept Davis and Jackson on the floor the entire night, while Phil Jackson never took Odom out and gave Bryant just 65 seconds on the bench even after he got hit in the face inadvertently by Davis, causing a cut that required five postgame stitches.
Fisher scored 18 points for the Lakers, whose fourth win in five games put them a half-game ahead of New Orleans for the top seed in next month’s playoffs. Los Angeles also avoided losing its season series to the Warriors for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
After Davis’ tying free throws with 3.6 seconds left in regulation sent it to overtime, the game turned when the Warriors set up to inbound the ball at midcourt after Odom’s layup. Delaney called an offensive foul when Ellis and Fisher got mutually tangled, and the Lakers then got two clinching free throws from Bryant with 3.3 seconds to play—his only points of overtime.
“I thought it was going to be a no-call, just two guys fall down and the play goes on,” Fisher said. “So when the whistle blew, it caught me off-guard as well. … I don’t think anybody was necessarily guilty of anything, but from the angle that Bob had, it looked (Ellis) had his hands to my chest, which he did. But like I said, I wasn’t trying to fall down at all in that situation.”
Ellis had 18 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for the Warriors, who have lost four of seven in a critical stretch for their playoff hopes. Jackson added 29 points, but Golden State’s lead over Denver for the conference’s final playoff berth dwindled to a half-game.
“I thought our comeback was great,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said. “We really battled, and didn’t have great games from everybody. I played my guys a lot of minutes both games, and fatigue was a bit of a factor, but we were right there to win it. It was a really great basketball game.”
Warriors F Mickael Pietrus had an MRI exam that revealed a mildly strained right hamstring and groin. The versatile swingman, injured Friday against Houston, missed both games against the Lakers, but shouldn’t be out much longer. Kelenna Azubuike again got most of Pietrus’ minutes, scoring 18 points. … Oakland Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell attended the game.