Bryant propels Lakers to 2-0 lead
LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant had been waiting for a breakout game, the kind of high-scoring effort he's made his reputation on. He got it just in time.
Playing with a broken finger, sore knee and bum ankle, Bryant scored 39 points, carrying the Lakers in the fourth quarter when they lost the lead three times, and Los Angeles beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 95-92, last night to take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.
"What did Mark Twain say? Rumors of my demise or whatever," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who predicted before the game that Bryant would strongly return to form.
Bryant was 13 of 15 from the free-throw line, but just 12 of 28 from the floor in front of his dad Joe, who sat next to the Lakers' bench.
"My free throws felt good," Bryant said. "I put in a lot, a lot of work over the last month fine-tuning my stroke and trying to get it back to being consistent."
Beforehand, Jackson said he wanted Bryant to shoot better or take fewer shots. The NBA finals MVP made just 30 percent of his shots over his previous five games, having missed four of the final five of the regular season and hearing all the doubters.
"After 13 years, you'd think they'd know better," Bryant said.
Bryant ran off eight straight points the first time the Lakers fell behind by one, with the referees turning a 3-pointer into a 2-pointer that put them back in front by three.
"He made the tough shots. He got to the free-throw line and that's what great players do," said Kevin Durant, who led the Thunder with 32 points but had eight turnovers.
Russell Westbrook added 19, making all eight of his free throws.
The Thunder packed the paint and disrupted Lakers' big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who had combined for 32 points and 25 rebounds in Game 1.
This time, Gasol had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Bynum six points and 10 boards for the defending champions, who failed to sustain their strong start for the second straight game.
"That was about as well as we can play and we came up a little short," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Two games in a row we gave the effort defensively. We're still trying to figure out how to win these close games."
Game 3 is tomorrow in Oklahoma City. The Lakers are 39-1 all-time when winning the first two games of a best-of-seven series.
HAWKS 96, BUCKS 86
ATLANTA — With Joe Johnson and high-flying Josh Smith leading the way, the Atlanta Hawks avoided another Game 2 letdown.
Johnson took control in the fourth quarter to finish off a 27-point effort, Smith had 21 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists and the Hawks ran away from the pesky but outmanned Milwaukee Bucks to take a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference playoffs series.
The Bucks head home for Saturday's Game 3, hoping to turn things around in the next two games. But they've led only three times in the series — never by more than two points — for a total of 1 minute, 32 seconds.
CELTICS 106, HEAT 77
BOSTON — Boston didn't miss Kevin Garnett at all, not the way Glen Davis filled in as the Celtics took a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.
With Garnett serving a one-game suspension for elbowing Quentin Richardson in Game 1, Davis started and had 23 points and eight rebounds, going aggressively to the basket to grab missed shots and draw fouls.
"That's a case of one man impacting the game simply with his effort. I don't think they ran one play for him," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You cannot let a man's effort exceed yours. It's as simple as that."
The Heat took a 29-25 lead on a dunk by Jermaine O'Neal. But over the next 16 1/2 minutes, the Celtics used a 44-8 surge to go ahead 69-37, capped by one of Ray Allen's five 3-pointers in the third quarter. Allen led the Celtics with 25 points, while Dwyane Wade scored 29 for the Heat.
SUNS 119, TRAIL BLAZERS 90
PHOENIX — Jason Richardson scored 29 points, Grant Hill made 10 of 11 shots for 20, and Phoenix rediscovered its high-energy style in a rout of Portland to square their first-round playoff series at one game apiece.
Unlike Game 1, Steve Nash pushed the Suns to their preferred tempo from the start and finished with 13 points and 16 assists. Amare Stoudemire scored 18. None of the Suns' starters played in the fourth quarter.
"The game just went by fast," Portland's Andre Miller said. "They hit us with the transition game. That's what they've been doing all year."
Portland's Martell Webster scored 16 points.