Bucks are cure for what ails Kobe
Bryant’s under-the-weather performance wasn’t quite as over-the-top or as significant as Michael Jordan’s in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals against the Utah Jazz, when the flu-ridden Jordan got out of a sick bed to shoot 13-for-27 and score 38 points in 44 minutes to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 90-88 win. But it was impressive nonetheless.
Bryant shot 12-for-25 in 37 minutes and made five 3-pointers, leaving him one trey shy of 1,000 for his career. He also had seven assists and five rebounds and converted all eight free throws.
Mo Williams scored 28 points for the Bucks, who dropped to 0-7 on Friday nights this season. Michael Redd returned to the Milwaukee lineup and came off the bench for the first time this season, scoring 22 points in 25 minutes after missing four games because of a deep bruise in his left thigh.
The Lakers won for the 15th time in 18 games and climbed within a half-game of first-place Phoenix in the Pacific Division. Their surge began four games after coach Phil Jackson agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract extension on Nov. 29. The Lakers’ next victory will tie Jackson with Bill Fitch, his coach at the University of North Dakota, for sixth place among NBA coaches at 944.
This is the first time the Lakers have started a calendar year 5-0 since 2002. The franchise record for most consecutive wins to start a new year is nine, which was set in 1963, the team’s third season in Los Angeles.
Bryant played the entire first quarter, scoring his first 16 points during the final 4:34 of the period before taking a breather early in the second. His first three baskets came on 3-point shots during a 62-second span, and he capped that scoring binge by flying under the basket past 7-foot center Andrew Bogut and making a reverse layup.
During every rest period on the bench, Bryant wore a towel over his head to keep the chill from the refrigerated hockey rink underneath the court at a minimum—while his healthy teammates managed to maintain their slim lead though the rest of the first half.
Bryant sat out the final three minutes of the half after picking up his third foul. He got his fourth with 10:39 left in the third quarter and the Lakers ahead 56-50, but the Bucks trailed the rest of the way.
Los Angeles began the fourth quarter with a 14-0 run to open up a 90-76 lead with 9:26 to play. Bryant sank three free throws after getting fouled behind the arc by Charlie Bell, them set up a reverse dunk by Trevor Ariza with a no-look pass over his head with his back to the basket.
Bryant capped the rally with a 14-foot turnaround jumper, and Milwaukee got no closer than the final outcome.