7:30 PM ET, January 12, 2006
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Kobe-LeBron matchup didn't quite go as hyped, with neither at the top of his game.
But Kobe Bryant put on a show in the final 90 seconds despite a sore right wrist.
Bryant scored his team's last six points on three long jumpers including the go-ahead shot with 8.6 seconds left, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 99-98 Thursday night.
"His last three shots were just amazing," an admiring James said afterward. "The guy was shooting shots like he was the only person in this arena. He has been through this before -- he has (championship) rings."
Bryant said he told his teammates to pick up the slack because his hand was bothering him and it was tough to shoot the ball.
"They did a great job carrying me through the game," he said.
At least until the stretch run.
Bryant's 18-footer with 1:30 remaining gave the Lakers a 95-93 lead.
After Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored for Cleveland, Bryant hit a 22-footer with 50 seconds to play, putting the Lakers ahead again.
Then, following a layup by Drew Gooden of the Cavaliers, Bryant made a 20-foot shot from the left wing, making it 99-97.
Bryant fouled James with 5.2 seconds to play, and James made his first three throw before missing the second. Gooden got the rebound, but after a timeout, James missed from about 18 feet while being closely guarded by Bryant as the buzzer sounded.
"The shot felt great, I didn't hesitate," James said. "It was short. They won and we lost."
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown had no problem with the last play, either.
"The shot he had was a great look," Brown said. "It just didn't go down. That happens sometimes."
Bryant, who had scored at least 40 points in his previous five games, sprained his right wrist in the second quarter when James' elbow accidentally came in contact with his wrist. X-rays of his wrist at halftime were negative.
Bryant sat out the first five minutes of the fourth period before taking over in the late going.
"It's pretty sore," he said. "I iced it. I'll come in early in the morning and get treatment."
Ilgauskas scored 29 points and James had 28 points and nine assists for the Cavaliers (20-13), who lost for just the fourth time in 13 games. Gooden finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Luke Jackson added 11 points.
James' streak of getting at least 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists was snapped at seven games. He had only two rebounds. Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain are the only other players to have accomplished that feat.
"One thing I like about LeBron is that he matched up with me as well," Bryant said. "He saw that at the start of the game that I was going to take the challenge of guarding him, and he in turn took on the challenge of guarding me."
Said James: "It was awesome going against one of the best players in this league. He put his team on his back and I tried to do the same thing. We gave the fans what they wanted to see. We had a great time out there competing -- it was awesome."
Neither team led by more than three points after Jackson made two straight 3-pointers to put the Cavaliers on top 86-85 with 4:43 remaining.
"The home team won -- everyone can go home happy," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
A basket by James put the Cavaliers ahead 61-54, matching the largest lead of the game for either team. Bryant had only 11 points before scoring six in the last 2:10 of the third quarter, sparking an 8-3 run that gave the Lakers a 68-67 lead.
James said he hasn't decided if he'll play on the U.S. team at the 2006 World Championships or 2008 Olympics, but spoke optimistically. He plans to meet with team director Jerry Colangelo in Phoenix, where the Cavaliers play Saturday night. "No decision yet," James said. "I hope to make one in the next couple days. It's looking real positive right now I might be playing on the team." ... Lakers F Slava Medvedenko underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back, and isn't expected to play again this season. ... Cavaliers F Anderson Varejao played for the first time this season after missing the first 32 games following surgery on his right shoulder Sept. 2. He played the last 56 seconds of the third quarter and didn't score. ... The Lakers extended their winning streak over the Cavaliers in Los Angeles to seven games. ... The game was the first of six on the road in a span of 10 days for the Cavaliers.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||39-72 (.542)||39-77 (.506)|
|3PM-3PA||6-11 (.545)||3-16 (.188)|
|FTM-FTA||14-23 (.609)||18-20 (.900)|
|Fast Break Points||6||17|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||19 (1/0)|