Bryant hits buzzer-beater
By COLIN FLY
MILWAUKEE — Kobe Bryant reverted to an old habit when he missed a potential game-winning shot. Given a second opportunity, he stuck with the change he's made since breaking his right index finger.
Bryant hit a 15-footer as time expired and scored the game's final seven points over the last 1:18 of overtime to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 107-106 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks last night.
Bryant, who had 27 of his 39 points in the second half and overtime, missed a shot from nearly the same spot from the left elbow that would've won it at the buzzer to end regulation.
"I changed my grip since the finger, so that first shot I took had my original grip and the ball kind of came off the wrong way," said Bryant, who broke the finger against Minnesota on Friday. "I was upset because if I was going to miss it, I'd rather miss it with things I've practiced in the last few days. I was happy to get another look."
On his second try, he backed down Charlie Bell again and drained the jumper to start the celebration by raising his arms triumphantly and returning to the Lakers bench where he was mobbed.
"I had a really good look on that first one and wanted to go right back to the same spot and get the same look," Bryant said.
Pau Gasol had 26 points and a career-high 22 rebounds for the Lakers (20-4), who tied Boston for the best record in the NBA with their 13th win in the last 14 games.
Bryant, who scored 42 points in a win over Chicago on Tuesday night, was again sharp when it counted despite the finger that's been hampering his ball handling and follow through. He went 13 of 28 from the field and hit all 12 of his free-throw attempts, but committed seven turnovers after committing eight against the Bulls.
He said he took a whack on the hand and it remains sore, but this one was much more painful for the Bucks.
Reserve Michael Redd had 25 points and Ersan Ilyasova added a career-high 24, but the Bucks lost their fourth straight in the series with the Lakers and are 3-14 in the last 17 meetings.
"I hate losing to him," Redd said.
Milwaukee took a 106-100 lead in overtime after Redd hit a 3 and Luke Ridnour added a 15-footer.
Bryant hit a jumper and after Ilyasova missed two free throws, the Lakers star added a three-point play by plowing into Andrew Bogut, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds, to make it 106-105 with 48 seconds left.
Bogut and Bell both declined to criticize the officiating, saying that they didn't want to draw a fine. But both were clearly perturbed and believed Bogut had position.
"That was a huge play, the charge or block call," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "That's a huge play and if we get that stop right there, we're probably in good position."
Milwaukee still had chances to win or at least stave off Bryant.
Both Ridnour and Redd missed shots in the closing seconds for the Bucks, and Ron Artest grabbed a rebound with 5.4 seconds left. After a timeout, Lamar Odom inbounded the ball to Bryant, who hit the game-winner.
"I did the best I could to make it a tough shot. He missed the first one, I thought it was good defense on the second one," Bell said. "Players like that, they try to get to a certain spot on the court. It's a comfort zone. He got to it."
Gasol has 78 rebounds in his last four games, including three 20-rebound performances. Gasol's total is the NBA's best mark in a four-game span since Marcus Camby had 79 during a stretch that ended in January last season, according to STATS, LLC.
"I'm just trying to be more active and more assertive. I'm trying to pursue the ball more instead of waiting for it," Gasol said. "The balls are bouncing my way a couple times more, but I'm just being active and hopefully I can keep it up."