Just two days after suffering a last-second loss in San Antonio, the Lakers again fell victim to an opponent’s last-minute heroics as Jameer Nelson’s second three-pointer in the final 1:26 ultimately spelled L.A.’s doom on Friday night at STAPLES Center.
Kobe Bryant had a chance to tie the game on a terrific look from three with 10.1 seconds left on the clock, but rimmed out for the ninth time in 12 fourth quarter shots, putting a damper on his 15th career triple-double.
“I had a great look, great, great look and it just didn’t want to stay down for me,” explained Bryant, who finished with 28 points, 13 boards and 11 assists.
In a crazy, fast-paced fourth quarter, the lead changed 15 times and the Magic canned 5-of-8 threes that proved deadly. Lamar Odom had a terrific game off the bench with 17 points and nine rebounds – 10 and five of which were in the fourth quarter – but he did miss 3-of-5 free throws in the fourth. The Magic countered with 25 points and 20 boards from Dwight Howard and 28 points with eight dimes from the playing-like-an-All-Star Nelson.
Yet as a team, after holding Orlando to 44 points in the first half, the Lakers allowed 65 in the second, due in part simply to a more energetic Magic squad and perhaps to some tired legs resulting from seven tough games in 11 days, all of which were closely contested.
Let’s review: After a close loss to the Hornets on Jan. 6, L.A. came from behind to beat Golden State on the road; two days later they got a final seconds jumper from Bryant to beat Indiana; Then came a tip in from Andrew Bynum to beat Miami last Sunday; Next a last-minute three again from Kobe to beat the Rockets in Houston on Tuesday, which preceded a last-second loss at San Antonio the next night; and finally came Friday night’s loss to the Magic.
As such, a banged up and weary Lakers team went 4-3 against some of the league’s better competition, and retained the best record in the Western Conference by 4.5 games over the second place Denver Nuggets.
Mercifully, L.A. has two days before its next game against Eastern Conference leading Cleveland, who come to Los Angeles for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day special on Monday.
A few numbers:
Fastbreak points for the Lakers, compared with 10 for the Magic.
Also the number of points for Sasha Vujacic in 13 minutes in his first game since missing the Texas trip.
Rebounds for Andrew Bynum, who had just four combined boards in L.A.’s two games in Texas.
Three-pointers dropped by the Magic in the fourth quarter after they’d made just 7-of-20 in the first three quarters. Jameer Nelson was a perfect 3-of-3 in the fourth, including the two last minute and change daggers, and finished with 15 final-quarter points.
Threes hit by Vladimir Radmanovic in the first three quarters for 15 points.
Orlando’s rebounding edge (54-40), signified most loudly by Howard’s 20 boards to Bynum’s three. Pau Gasol managed nine window cleans, while Bryant had a season-high 13, in part due to Orlando’s long-range shooting.
Combined missed free throws from both teams. Howard was the biggest culprit with seven misses, while Odom missed four for the Lakers.
L.A.’s shooting percentage for the game, due in part to a 9-for-26 (34.6 percent) clip in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant was 10-of-26.