Below is a running diary of L.A.’s home contest against the Indiana Pacers, as the Lakers looked to get back into the win column after a tough loss in Utah, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom and Gasol
Pacers: D. Collison, M. Dunleavy, D. Granger, J. McRoberts and R. Hibbert
8:17 In a contest far more relaxed than the one L.A. came out of with a loss on Friday in Utah, Odom’s three and Gasol’s long two followed six early points from Bryant for an early 12-7 edge. Indiana had started Brandon Rush instead of usual starter Mike Dunleavy to attempt to guard Kobe, but that didn’t prevent No. 24 from getting the shots he wanted.
0:00 Indiana, feeling a bit warm in Los Angeles in the absence of its usual winter environment, was treated with a heavy dose of Kobe in the first. Eleven field goal attempts, though rendering just four makes, produced 13 points from the league’s fourth leading scorer, five points coming at the foul line, to help L.A. towards a narrow 26-23 lead in the first.
12:00 We saw Gasol get pulled with two minutes to play in the first, the first sign of Phil Jackson’s pregame mention that his primary concern at this early stage of the season is over-extending Gasol’s minutes. The team came into the season with the expectation that Andrew Bynum would be ready to play far earlier than things have turned out, wasn’t expecting Theo Ratliff to miss extended time and isn’t confident doling out big minutes to Derrick Caracter due to the rookie’s inexperience. Gasol still found himself back in alongside subs Blake, Brown, Barnes and starter Artest to open the second.
5:22 Indiana had a chance to go up six with the Lakers going through a lull at both ends, but backup point guard T.J. Ford missed a wide-open layup, and L.A. scored in transition through Matt Barnes (seven points in 10 minutes) to cut Indy’s lead to just two.
0:10.2 For some strange reason, the Pacers went under a Gasol screen to leave Bryant with an open look at a triple, which he obviously drained. The problem was, L.A. conceded an easy shot in the paint to Collison at the other end, allowing Indiana a 51-45 lead at the break.
8:44 So, that wasn’t what Phil Jackson and his staff expected out of halftime. Instead of the usual defensive push, the Lakers conceded the first eight points of the period to fall behind by 14 at 59-45 after three minutes and change. A few Lakers, namely Bryant, Gasol and Odom didn’t look amused at the amount of physicality being allowed in the paint, and had yet to adjust.
2:48 L.A. just couldn’t seem to get untracked, conceding consecutive buckets to Hibbert and Granger after Bryant’s three had cut the margin to 11, Indy opening a game-high 15-point margin with just under 15 minutes to play. But in the next minute and change, Bryant capped off a stretch in which he scored 13 consecutive Lakers points (one fewer than his fourth quarter run in Utah on Friday) to cut Indy’s lead to nine at 76-67.
0:08.7 Sorry, make that 15 straight Kobe points. In Black Mamba mode, Bryant finished a tremendously difficult reverse layup, using a whole lot of English off the glass plus the foul, and even with the missed free throw cut Indy’s lead down to eight while igniting what had been a quiet crowd. Chants of “MVP” always come out at least to a degree when Kobe goes to the line, but this time, it was a full serenade from STAPLES Center.
6:30 Apparently a three-plus minute rest to start the quarter cooled Bryant off, as No. 24 missed his first two jumpers, the Lakers down seven while trying to claw back into the contest. Epitomizing the second straight game of bench offensive struggles was Blake, who missed a wide-open three, his first attempt of the game. In related news, Brown was 1-for-8 at that point.
4:57 But things can change quickly in an NBA minute … Blake nailed his next attempt at a three, and Brown followed with a transition layup after his own steal, cutting Indiana’s lead down to four at 83-79.
3:06 L.A. was scoring, getting two more hoops from Bryant (the second thanks to two offensive rebounds), but wasn’t stopping Indiana at the other end. Little-used Josh McRoberts tipped in a miss and then corralled another board that allowed Rush an open lane to the hoop, Indy keeping its lead at six.
0:00 Stay tuned for the sequence of a bizarre ending: 1) Bryant hits two ridiculous jumpers and Gasol two free throws to cut Indiana’s lead to just a point with 30 seconds remaining; 2) Hibbert slips around Gasol — who had played all but one minute in the game — and gets an uncontested dunk at the rim; 3) Bryant attempts a game-tying three that goes off the back rim; 4) Artest grabs the board, but instead of taking the layup, kicks out to Odom, who passes on taking the shot himself and instead gives the ball to Bryant, standing 30 feet from the rim; 4) Bryant has no choice but to launch a 30-foot three, which falls well short; 5) Pacers win for the first time ever at STAPLES Center.
Up next is a road back-to-back in Memphis and Houston.