Game Notes: Heat at Lakers
The BBall Gods were with Kobe.
by Sean Ceglinsky
It’s still hard to believe, difficult to fathom.
For those who haven’t seen the replay, we’re talking about Kobe Bryant’s desperation heave on Friday night, a truly improbable shot that found the bottom of the net just before the final buzzer sounded to give the Lakers a 108-107 victory over the Heat. And SLAMonline was there, of course, covering all the action courtside at Staples Center.
With 3.2 seconds left on the clock, Dwyane Wade shadowed Bryant as Ron Artest attempted an inbound pass. Kobe, like Kobe often does, managed to create an inch of space, got the ball, and off one foot leaning to his left, with a hand in his face, launched a three-pointer from way downtown that banked off the window from straightaway for the game-winner.
DWade couldn’t have played it any better.
“It was the luckiest shot I’ve ever taken, by far,’’ said Bryant, who scored 17 of his game-high 33 points in the decisive 4th quarter.
Interestingly enough, no one was able to confirm if Kobe called bank on the shot. Guess sometimes it‘s better to be lucky than good.
*** Rumor is, the Heat didn’t arrive in Los Angeles until early Friday morning, right around 4 a.m., West Coast time. Miami was in Denver on Thursday night and lost 114-96 to the Nuggets. Truth be told, during warm-ups, Wade appears to be a little road weary.
*** At the shoot-around, Pau Gasol seems to have an added spring in his step. Suppose he’s finally put his troublesome hamstring issue behind him, a frustrating injury that kept him out of the lineup for the Lakers during their first 11 games of the season.
*** Here’s a fact, little known as it may be: Dorell Wright was born and raised in Southern California and attended Leuzinger High, less than 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. Don‘t be surprised if he ends up seeing some minutes for the Heat. One problem: If his number is called, Wright will most likely draw the assignment of covering Bryant. Welcome home.
*** Pat Riley is in the building. The General Manager of the Heat is spotted walking through the corridor, adjacent to the locker rooms, on his way out to the court. Figures that he’d make an appearance for the game pitting his current team against his former squad. Make no mistake, Riles is still a fan favorite around these parts. He’s getting love from everyone in the stands.
*** Spectators hoping to see Kobe and DWade go hard at each other are getting their money’s worth early on. Both are determined on the defensive end of the floor. Apparently, there won’t be any easy buckets tonight. Must say, it’s nice watching two of the best in the business go toe-to-toe.
*** Andrew Bynum grabs a Ron Artest miss, gathers himself and heads to the hole, intent on making a statement. Jermaine O’Neal better get out of the way. Too late. Bynum elevates, O’Neal attempts to do the same but ends up getting dunked on and the Lakers lead 9-7 with 7:37 left.
*** Due in large part to Bryant’s harassing defense, Wade is struggling, no doubt about it. Kobe picks up his second foul at 5:22 and heads to the sideline. Things don’t get any better for Wade. He makes one free-throw and is 0-4 from the field over the course of the opening 12 minutes.
*** No Wade, no problem. Mario Chalmers keeps the Heat close. He knocks down three shots from beyond the three-point arc, the last of which gives the Heat a 17-15 advantage at 4:13.
*** With Bryant on the bench, the Lakers pound the ball inside. Gasol and Bynum combine to score 15 points. Their efforts, however, aren’t enough. Miami leads 23-21 at the end of one.
*** Guess who’s back? Kobe. Now, let’s see if he can stay out of foul trouble. Wright plays good defense, he’s in Bryant’s jersey, but after a couple of head and shoulder fakes and a jab step, Kobe nails an 18-footer to tie the score, 27-27, with 9:19 remaining.
*** Jordan Farmar comes off the bench and provides an instant spark. He steals the ball and goes coast-to-coast for an easy basket, then works a nice give-and-go with Lamar Odom, finishing at the rim with a reverse layup. Farmar is just getting started. He finds Gasol underneath, leading to a bucket that gives the Lakers a 36-33 lead with 6:26 before intermission.
*** DWade has been quiet. Finally, he does something that’ll show up in the box score, fouling Bryant away from the basket at the 4:56 mark.
*** Kobe is relentless. Wade, however, is resilient. He shakes Bryant, drives down the lane and goes up strong. Luckily, Bynum doesn’t challenge Wade, otherwise he would’ve ended up on a poster. The dunk cuts the deficit to three points with 2:03 before the break.
*** Not to be outdone, Kobe posts up Wade, and with the clock winding down, makes a 9-footer over Jamaal Magloire as time expires. Lakers are up 51-48 at the half.
*** The teams exchange baskets during the opening minutes. And when the Heat least expect it, the Lakers go on an 8-2 run, keyed by two free-throws from Derek Fisher, a pair from Kobe followed by an 18-footer and Bynum caps the spurt with a basket. Miami is down 70-62 at 5:20.
*** After scoring 6 points on 2-9 shooting from the field in the first half, Wade gets it going. Better late than never. He throws down a two-handed dunk, converts a layup and makes three consecutive free-throws. All of a sudden, Miami is up two with less than a minute left.
*** The Lakers put a stop to the momentum, at least temporarily. Magloire is called for a foul and Gasol makes two free-throws to square things up, 76-76, at the end of three. He finishes with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 42 minutes of action.
*** Kobe abuses Wright again, this time using a pump fake to get the kid from California in the air. Bryant makes the 11-foot jumper, is fouled in the act and hits the subsequent free-throw. The Lakers regain the lead, by three points, with plenty of time left in this one, 11:18 to be exact.
*** A few minutes later, he’s up to his old tricks. Wright overplays Kobe, who gets into the lane and lofts up a left-handed hook to extend the advantage to 91-82 at 6:24. Miami is in trouble.
*** O’Neal refuses to give an inch. His dunk at 5:35 cuts the lead to six points. It appears as if the Heat has some fight left in them.
*** The next trip down the floor, all hell nearly breaks loose. O’Neal throws down another slam, hangs on the rim afterward and shoves Odom before reaching the floor. Odom retaliates, pushing O’Neal, the two are separated and Odom is ejected at 5:07 after picking up his second technical foul.
*** DWade scores 6 in-a-row to give the Heat a 102-100 lead with the less than a minute remaining in the game and his two free-throws put Miami up four points with nine seconds left. Early troubles aside, Wade nearly ends up with a triple-double: 26 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds.
*** Following a 20-second timeout, Fisher buries a three-pointer to make things extremely interesting. He’s clutch, for sure. Always has been, always will be. The Heat lead is 106-105 at this point.
*** With a few ticks on the clock left, Wade steps to the line and misses the front end of a one-and-one to set up the game-clincher from Kobe. Wonder if that’s how Phil Jackson drew things up on the chalkboard?
*** In the locker room, Fisher summed things up rather well. Then again, he‘s seen it all throughout the years. “It’s L.A. Why not have it be as dramatic as it was?’’ he said. “I had to remind myself this was a regular season game in mid-December. I was jumping on Kobe’s back like it was the Finals.”
*** Wade was in disbelief, like so may others, saying: ”If you told me before the game that it would be decided by Kobe shooting a one-legged, (three-pointer off the backboard), I’d have taken that. The basketball gods were with him on that one. A great player hit an unbelievable shot. There are a couple of guys around the League that make big shots, but there ain’t many. He’s one of them.”