The Lakers escaped with a victory tonight, winning 120-109 after a late run that finally put away the threatening Knicks. The Lakers struggled with defense for most of the night, nearly embarking on their nine-game road trip with a loss before Sasha Vujacic and Lamar Odom bailed the team out with timely shots down the stretch.
“Well defense was a hope and a prayer for the first three quarters for us tonight, but we found a way to defend a little bit at the end of the game that made sense,” said Coach Jackson after the game.
Lakers forward Luke Walton, already in the middle of a slump, suffered another blow in the first quarter after leaving the game for good with a hip pointer. However, unlike some of the Lakers’ other recent injuries, Luke’s does not appear to be serious.
“It looks like Luke will be able to make the trip with us,” Jackson said. “We doctored him up and iced him down a little bit, so he’ll be able to go tomorrow but we don’t know about his probability to play on Thursday.”
With the Lakers down 100-91 with around six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the team got a spark on the defensive end from one of its most unlikely sources–Kwame Brown (10 points, 11 rebounds). Ronny Turiaf also provided a huge boost off the bench, scoring 14 points and pulling down nine rebounds.
“They played well,” said Jackson. “I though that Kwame made a big steal at the end of the game; he was active and had a block… Ronnie played really well as a backup. We needed that because of the leads after the first half, get some activity in there, some guys paying attention to him.”
Kobe Bryant had a quiet, but efficient 24 points (10/21 shooting), with Jackson nothing that #24 hung back and allowed his teammates to play with freedom in the first half, before exerting control in the second half of the game.
Lamar Odom–22 points, 12 rebounds–also had a solid comeback game for the Lakers after a series of sub par performances in recent outings.
The Lakers will fly out tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. for their longest road trip of the season, with the first stop at Detroit this Thursday.
“After losing three in a row, it’s definitely big,” said Turiaf. “It gives you like a nice little breather right now and makes you just feel good about yourself.”
“…You go on the road, its going to be a hostile environment, the home teams inevitable are going to go on runs,” said Bryant. “The important thing for us is to keep our poise and just execute.”