With about 10 seconds left in Saturday evening’s game, Kobe Bryant gathered the ball near midcourt as the Lakers faced a 104-103 deficit in Orlando. The then 21-6 Magic, who’d lost just three times at home, had charged from nine down in the first half to take the lead, but the game was L.A.’s to win.
The expected double-team rushed towards No. 24 as the game clock ticked down, but instead of hoisting a contested shot, Bryant swung the ball to a wide open Sasha Vujacic in the corner.
With five seconds on the clock, Vujacic released a three-pointer, got full extension on his follow through and watched the ball arch downwards towards the rim. The ball rolled around, seemingly touching the net, and then, almost in slow motion, rimmed back out into the waiting hands of Dwight Howard.
Thus, even though they’d come with the kind of 48-minute effort that had been lacking in recent games, the Lakers lost at the buzzer for the second-straight night in Florida, after Bryant’s game-tying attempt had rimmed out in an eerily similar way in Miami on Friday.
With Jordan Farmar on the shelf with torn meniscus in his left knee, Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant both played season highs in minutes (41:28 and 42:35, respectively) and were fantastic with season highs 27 and 41 points. However, as Bryant faced hard double-teams every time he touched the ball in the second half, he seemed to wear a bit before missing 6-of-7 shots in the final quarter. Fisher, meanwhile, hit two huge fourth quarter threes to knot the score first at 92 and then at 101, but he finally missed with the Lakers down 103-101 with 46.9 seconds remaining.
A Rashard Lewis missed free throw and two Bryant makes cut the lead to one before Vujacic’s miss, but Bryant’s desperation 30-foot three with 00.9 remaining didn’t have much of a chance, and it was over.
Points for Jameer Nelson, who made 11-of-16 shots including 4-of-6 threes in a very impressive performance.
Combined points from Luke Walton (two), Andrew Bynum (three), Lamar Odom (four), Trevor Ariza (five) and Sasha Vujacic (1). Pau Gasol had just 11 and Vladimir Radmanovic nine.
Minutes played by Bynum, who lasted just two minutes before committing his second foul on Dwight Howard. Bynum managed just three points and one rebound, plus two turnovers and five fouls.
Free throws made on 11 attempts from Bryant. The Magic missed 15 shots from the line (61.5 percent), including five from Dwight Howard, though his two biggest attempts of the night – with 3.5 seconds left – both swished through.
Technical fouls, including one each on Luke Walton, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. In related news, Joe Crawford was one of the refs.