Game, set, match

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita Matched up against James, with Lakers center Chris Mihm setting picks to try and free him, Bryant buried three jumpers as the crowd grew louder with each one. He hit an 18-footer and 22-footer, all from the left side, and saved his best for last by doubling back on James and connecting on a 20-footer with 8.6 seconds left over both James and Cleveland’s 7-foot-3 center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. James posted up Bryant at the other end and was fouled as he went baseline. He hit the first free throw but missed the second with 5.2 seconds remaining. But Drew Gooden pulled down the rebound to give the Cavaliers a second chance. James again got the ball and pulled up over Bryant, but couldn’t get his shot to drop. He collapsed to the floor as the final horn sounded and streamers rained from the ceiling. Bryant finished with 27 points on 9-of-21 shooting, while James had 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting. Forward Lamar Odom finished an assist shy of his first triple double with the Lakers and sensational with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. And Bryant once again unable to emerge from a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers unscathed, and somehow it didn’t matter as Bryant hit every big shot down the stretch as the Lakers won, 99-98. Bryant suffered a sprained wrist with five minutes left in the first half and spent much of the night tugging and flexing on his hand. That just made what happened in the last 90 seconds, though, all the more remarkable. LOS ANGELES – USC quarterback Matt Leinart walked through the Lakers locker room before the game in a No. 8 jersey and suspended Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest sat in the second row at Staples Center, a surprise appearance to say the least. NBA superstars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James were matched up on the court Thursday night. It was a star-studded regular-season game, especially for the middle of January. center_img The Lakers managed to take a 68-67 lead into the fourth quarter, even with the condition of Bryant’s wrist uncertain. Bryant and Luke Walton trapped James along the sideline, ending in a turnover when James stepped out of bounds. That defense, gone and forgotten in Wednesday’s 113-103 loss to Portland, led to a dunk at the other end as Mihm finished a pick and roll with Odom with an emphatic slam. Mihm then blocked Mike Wilks back on defense. The Lakers gave up only 17 points in the third quarter, a quarter that Jackson has described often this season as his team’s nemesis. Odom hit a critical basket for the Lakers coming out of a timeout with 3:08 left and made the second of two free throws with 1:53 remaining. Bryant wasn’t the same after the wrist injury. X-rays at halftime were negative, but Bryant missed his last four shots of the first half after suffering the injury and went the first 8:13 of the third quarter without taking a shot, astonishing for the NBA’s leading scorer. The past two times James and the Cavaliers came to Staples Center, Bryant suffered serious injuries. He sprained his shoulder in a game during James’ rookie season, then sprained his ankle coming down on a rebound last January. Bryant had to miss 14 games with the severe ankle sprain and the Lakers’ season wasn’t the same afterward. And Bryant couldn’t get out of the second quarter Thursday without being nicked on his right wrist. He took a shot from Cleveland’s Sasha Pavlovic fighting through a pick with five minutes left in the first half. Bryant winced and grabbed the wrist on his shooting hand in evident discomfort. Odom got involved early and had 10 points by halftime. Sometime about matching up against James seemed to energize Odom, who attacked the basket starting early in the first quarter. The 6-foot-10 Odom was feeling so good, evidently, he threw a behind-the-back pass in the lane to Mihm, which the Lakers center finished with a hook shot. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more