Kobe Seals Win in Jackson’s Return
L.A. Lakers 99, Denver 97 (OT)
DENVER, Nov. 2 (Ticker) -- The Phil Jackson-Kobe Bryant reunification tour got off to a rousing start.
In Jackson's first game as Los Angeles Lakers coach after a one-year hiatus, Bryant welcomed him back with eight of his 33 points in overtime and the go-ahead jumper with 0.6 seconds left as the Lakers posted a 99-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
The two took the first step toward rebuilding their relationship by leading the Lakers to their 22nd win in 33 all-time road openers.
"We had some luck with us tonight," Jackson said. "The win wasn't important for me, it was important for the team. But getting the win is twice as nice."
Bryant was unable to win it in regulation when he missed a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer but more than made up for it in the extra session.
He hit back-to-back jumpers from just inside the arc and Lamar Odom added a pair of free throws to give Los Angeles a 95-92 lead with just over a minute left.
Andre Miller answered with two free throws and a layup on a fast break that started when 6-11 Marcus Camby stripped Bryant before having his drive to the hoop thwarted by Bryant's block. Miller was there to clean up the mess and give the Nuggets a 96-95 edge inside of a minute.
Bryant replied with a pair of free throws and Kenyon Martin hit one for Denver to make it 97-97 with 22 seconds left, setting up a final chance for the Lakers.
In a surprise scenario, Los Angeles turned to newcomer Kwame Brown, who missed a short hook but got his own rebound and fed Bryant with time winding down. Bryant dribbled away from Miller and rose from inside the arc on the left wing.
"Coach trusts me," Bryant said. "He has called plays like that in the past. The opposition is expecting me to get the ball, and he knows that if the play breaks down I will find my way back to the ball."
Despite Miller's presence and Eduardo Najera's outstretched arm, Bryant drilled the decisive shot. After a timeout, Denver guard Voshon Lenard had a 3-pointer rattle in and out as time expired.
"It feels so good to win," Bryant said. "It was a big game for us. We are a young team and we had to battle back on the road to get the win. I'm proud of us."
Bryant played much of last season under heavy pressure without Jackson and superstar center Shaquille O'Neal, particularly late in games when the Lakers had few options other than Bryant.
On Wednesday, he shined in the role, scoring all but two of Los Angeles' points in OT.
"We have room for improvement, but being able to win the game was good," Bryant said. "We don't want moral victories. We want to learn, but it is nicer when you learn while winning."
Smush Parker scored 20 points and helped the Lakers rally from a four-point deficit in the final minute of regulation with a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left.
"With this offense I'm expecting to get some points," said Parker, who made just his 20th career start. "The way they sag off of me and go double Kobe, I'm going to get a lot of open shots. It is my job to hit them. This is a great start to the season for where we are headed. We all think we can make the playoffs this year."
Camby, who was limited to just four points in a season-opening 101-92 loss at San Antonio on Tuesday, scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds before fouling out in OT.
"It's frustrating," Camby said. "It was a game we should have won. You have to give those guys credit, they got the best of us tonight. We'll see them again. We feel we should be 2-0 but, give the Spurs credit and tonight we let this one slip away."
Denver's Carmelo Anthony added 16 points but missed a potential go-ahead hoop in the waning seconds of regulation and was scoreless in OT before also fouling out.
"I want to blame it on myself," Anthony said. "I shot too early at the end of the fourth. I just hurried and I wanted to make the shot. He (Kobe) hits the big shots, especially against us. He had the hot hand tonight."
No team led by more than seven points or won a quarter by more than three. Anthony scored four points and Camby three in Denver's 9-2 run in the final minutes of regulation.
Devean George and Chris Mihm both hit free throws around Parker's 3-pointer and Anthony and Bryant exchanged misses in the last 20 seconds.
The Nuggets were playing their first game without power forward Nenę, who was likely lost for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee in Tuesday's opener, and their second game under acting coach Scott Brooks.
Denver coach George Karl was serving the second half of a league-imposed two-game suspension for attending an offseason workout with high school players not eligible for the NBA draft.