LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kobe Bryant has become one of the best team players and leaders in the league. Still, when it’s winning time, he wants the ball.
With the game tied and the clock ticking down, Bryant ran off 23 seconds, then, with defenders lunging at him, coolly hit a turnaround, fadeaway jumper with 3 seconds remaining Friday night to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 121-119 victory over the stubborn Indiana Pacers.
Bryant’s 36 points included the Lakers’ final 11 of the game, and he also finished with 13 assists and seven rebounds.
“I just played the game and made them (the Pacers) make decisions,” Bryant said. “In the fourth quarter, you just have to stay home a little more.”
He said his last shot felt good, “but I had shots in the past, like the one in Miami that felt good, but it came in and out. So I made sure that one stayed down.”
Mike Dunleavy made a 3-pointer with 26.4 seconds remaining to pull the Pacers even at 119 before Bryant closed the scoring. Indiana took a timeout immediately after Bryant’s basket, then inbounded the ball but could not get a shot off before the buzzer.
Bryant went 15-of-17 from the free throw line and 10-of-20 from the floor. His shooting was off early in the final quarter, but he kept putting the ball up. The final 11 points were all he scored in the period.
“We couldn’t stop Kobe,” said the Pacers’ Danny Granger, who had 28 points when he fouled out with 47 seconds remaining. “He was making shots, getting to the free throw line and that’s basically the tale of the game.”
Dunleavy said, “Kobe made a tough shot like he’s done so many times before. We still had 3 seconds to get something off and we were looking for a 3-pointer. But obviously it didn’t pan out.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Bryant remained patient and determined down the stretch.
“He went dry there (earlier) in the fourth quarter,” Jackson said. “He had some really good looks and wasn’t hitting them, but he didn’t get frustrated.
“He stayed with it and made some plays for us down the stretch.”
The Lakers improved their home record to 19-2 and remained tied with Cleveland for the best overall record in the league at 29-6. The Cavaliers beat Boston 98-83 at home earlier Friday to improve their home mark to 19-0.
Troy Murphy had 24 points for Indiana and Dunleavy finished with 22.
The game was tight all the way, but the Lakers never trailed after an 11-2 run that began with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter. Bryant had nine points during that spurt, which gave Los Angeles a 96-84 lead heading into the fourth.
Gasol had 17 points and Bryant 14 during the high-scoring first half, but Granger had 16 and Murphy 14 and the Lakers were up just 68-66. No more than six points separated the teams in the half, when there were 10 lead changes.
The Pacers beat the Lakers 118-117 on Dec. 2, winning on Murphy’s tip-in at the buzzer. “We beat them in Indiana on a last-second shot and they beat us here with a shot at the end of the game,” Granger said. “Luckily, we don’t see them for the rest of the year.” … Jackson isn’t sure when Lamar Odom, who has missed three consecutive games because of a bone bruise in his right knee, will return. “You can’t project on the situation,” Jackson said, adding that he hopes Odom will be back—and at 100 percent—soon.