LOS ANGELES (AP)—As purple and gold confetti tumbled from above and Jack, Denzel and the usually laid-back L.A. crowd roared, Kobe Bryant(notes) and the Lakers headed off on their final road trip this season.
They were lucky and relieved, but hardly satisfied.
It’s not time for that.
“What’s there to be happy about?” Bryant asked, unwilling to crack a smile on the menacing game face he has maintained for a week. “The job is not finished.”
The Lakers needed a miss by Orlando rookie guard Courtney Lee(notes) on a perfectly executed alley-oop play in the final second of regulation to get to overtime, then escaped with a 101-96 win over the Magic on Sunday night to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA finals.
So dominant in winning the opener, the Lakers squeaked by.
But by 25 points or by one, they had a victory.
“I don’t think we dodged a bullet,” Bryant said. “They bounced back like we knew they would, played extremely well, and we got out of here with a win.”
Pau Gasol(notes) scored seven of his 24 points in overtime and Bryant finished with 29 for the Lakers, who became the fifth straight team to win the first two games of the series at home. In that span, only the 2006 Dallas Mavericks failed to win a title after being up 2-0.
And since the NBA went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985, 11 of 12 teams winning the first two games have gone on to win the championship.
The Lakers are now off to Florida for Game 3 on Tuesday night at Amway Arena. They’ll play at least two games there with a chance to win their 15th title.
“We just did our job defending our home court,” Bryant said. “Now it’s time to go to Orlando and see if we can’t get one.”
The Magic had their chance in Game 2. Lee missed it—and he actually had two shots at putting Orlando ahead.
With the score tied at 88-88, he drove the lane and misfired on a contested layup with 10.5 seconds remaining.
The Lakers called time with 9.1 seconds to play, and after Lamar Odom(notes) caught the inbound pass, he quickly gave it to Bryant, who drove into a crowd. Bryant attempted an off-balance 12-footer, but his shot was blocked from behind by Turkoglu with 1.8 seconds left.
The horn sounded and the star-studded Staples Center crowd braced for overtime.
But the officials huddled at the scorer’s table and decided to put 0.6 seconds back on the clock because Turkoglu grabbed the ball and called timeout.
Turkoglu couldn’t find anyone open on the initial inbound play and had to call time again. On the Magic’s second attempt, Lee got free on a perfectly executed play and caught Turkoglu’s long lob pass as he neared the left side of the basket.
But with 7-foot Gasol closing in on him, Lee slightly altered his shot, which caromed off the backboard and the front of the rim.
“I caught it and just tried to make a play,” Lee said. “We didn’t lose the game just because I missed the layup. We could have won the game.”
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, able to speak at length on any topic, struggled to explain Lee’s miss.
“Hedo made a great pass, and we missed it,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I just don’t know what else to say about it. It was a great pass, it was right there, and he missed it.”
Bryant knew how fortunate the Lakers were to hang on.
“It was just a brilliant play,” Bryant said. “It was just a very, very smart play that he (Van Gundy) drew up. He knew my eye was more on the shooters coming up and just a hell of a play by a hell of a coach.”
Fourteen years to the day, the Magic got another dose of finals misery.
On June 7, 1995, Orlando had a chance to put Houston away in Game 1, but Magic guard Nick Anderson missed four late free throws in a 120-118 loss to the Rockets, who went on to sweep Orlando in its only previous finals visit.
The Magic will head home thinking about what might have been. They could be tied 1-1, and with the next three games scheduled in front of their frenzied fans, they could have denied Bryant and the Lakers their first title since 2002.
“We’ve just got to go home and take care of business,” Howard said. “We’ve been in some tough situations. We’ve just got to fight our way out.”