Los Angeles (AP)
By Greg Beacham, AP Sports Writer
Kobe Bryant made 16 free throws without a miss despite a broken finger on his shooting hand. He played nearly 43 minutes against the run-and-gun Warriors in his fourth game in five nights.
And in a feat of strength to match those marvels of skill and endurance, he put the Los Angeles Lakers on his back and carried them past Golden State.
Bryant had a season-high 44 points and 11 assists amid perfection from the foul line, and Los Angeles survived Golden State’s 55-percent shooting for a 124-118 victory Tuesday night.
“By his effort alone, I think we owe this game to him in the win column,” said Phil Jackson, who gave in to Bryant’s request to get back in the game even when his exhaustion was obvious.
Pau Gasol had a season-high 27 points and 12 rebounds for the defending NBA champions, who have struggled without injured forward Ron Artest(notes) during a clear dip in their mostly trouble-free season.
The Lakers relied even more heavily than usual on Bryant to avoid their third loss in four days. Bryant came through with 27 points in the second half and 17 in the fourth quarter, clinching his seventh 40-point game of the season on two free throws with 4:04 left.
“That guy is amazing,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said. “To be able to shoot like he did with the finger problems that he has on his shooting hand, it’s amazing. I love watching him play, and it’s always a pleasure to coach against him.”
The huge wrap on the index finger of Bryant’s right hand covers the most obvious of his several minor injuries. Bryant had said his free throws were particularly tough with that wrap—yet he was perfect, sealing the win with seven free throws in the final period.
“It’s really just the up-and-downs of the season,” said Bryant, whose 103 40-point games are the third-most in NBA history. “You’re going to have stretches when you’re not playing well. It’s about how you deal with it and how you play through it.”
Corey Maggette(notes) scored 25 points and Monta Ellis(notes) added 22 for the Warriors, who beat Phoenix and Boston in the previous three days during the best stretch of another rough start to a season.
Golden State shot superbly and ran its uptempo offense well, but had nobody who could guard Bryant in the Warriors’ seventh straight loss to the Lakers. The Warriors haven’t won three straight games yet this season.
“It’s a great stage to play on, and a lot of fun,” said Warriors rookie Stephen Curry(notes), who scored 15 points in his first road game in Hollywood. “We were right there with them. We’ve just got to figure out how to finish it out and close it. It was a great experience for me.”
The Lakers still have the NBA’s best record (25-6) despite two 15-point losses in the previous three days, including their 102-87 Christmas flop against Cleveland. They also played their third straight game without Artest, who gave himself a concussion and a deep cut on his left elbow when he tripped and fell at his home on Christmas.
In their first home game since their fans littered the court with foam hands in response to the Lakers’ gripes about the officiating, Bryant and Lamar Odom(notes) both got technical fouls for arguing calls in the final 4:16. Los Angeles’ complaining helped the Warriors keep within three points down the stretch until Bryant followed up Ronny Turiaf’s(notes) two missed free throws with two foul shots of his own with 1:05 to play.
C.J. Watson(notes) scored 14 points while hitting four 3-pointers for the Warriors, who went 14 for 22 in the first quarter while opening with a clear burst of energy, perhaps still rolling from their impressive 103-99 win over the Celtics.
Pushing the tempo and finding Maggette for open shots, the Warriors scored 29 points the first 8:03 to take an 11-point lead that grew to 15 in the second quarter. Los Angeles rallied after halftime and took the lead midway through the period, but the Warriors hung around with scoring from Maggette and Ellis, whose layup in traffic evened it at 104 with 5:24 to play.
NOTES: Warriors C Andris Biedrins(notes), who returned Monday from a lengthy absence with an injured groin, had six points and eight rebounds before fouling out. … Artest plans to run on a treadmill Wednesday to see how his body responds. He might try to play Friday vs. Sacramento. … Vladimir Radmanovic(notes) scored 11 points for the Warriors. … Courtside fans included John McEnroe, Hayden Panettiere and Nicole Richie. Her longtime partner, rocker Joel Madden, wore a T-shirt reading “RIP The Rev” to honor Avenged Sevenfold drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, who was found dead in Huntington Beach on Monday.