Bobcats 133, Lakers 124

That’s the first triple-overtime game myself or any Lakers beat writer has seen in nearly 27 years. I’m sure the fans wish it would have turned out a little differently. The Lakers should have been better prepared to face a Bobcats team that’s already beaten San Antonio, Utah, Detroit and Cleveland this season. They also should have put away the game by halftime.

Here’s what Kobe Bryant had to say afterward: “You can’t make a loss any bigger than what it is. You can’t overdramatize the situation. It’s a loss. That’s that. It’s not going to make or break the season. So you just move on from it. You don’t want to overdramatize things.”

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Give credit to Charlotte’s Bernard Robinson, who didn’t play at all in the first four quarters before he was brought into the game after Gerald Wallace fouled out with a minute left in the first overtime. Robinson also drew the defensive assignment of trying to stop Bryant, who was closing in on 50 points for the game.

Robinson finished with six points in 11 minutes. As Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said, “We wanted him to go in for defense and he ended up giving us a bit of offense. That’s why it pays to always be ready, because you never know when opportunity will come knocking at your door.”

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What did we learn about the Lakers from this six-game trip? I think all you can say is that they in survival mode as long as Lamar Odom is out with a knee injury. That could be a couple of more weeks or it could be all of January. The Lakers still have a chance to close out a 10-6 December with a victory on Sunday against Philadelphia.

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It was noticed by a couple of us that the referee crew for Friday’s game featured two members – – Leroy Richardson and Derrick Stafford – – from the crew Lakers coach Phil Jackson called “dubious” after a November game at Utah. Jackson was fined $25,000 from the league for those comments.

Jackson was hit with a technical foul between quarters for telling one of the referees to stay away from the Lakers bench. Bryant got a technical from Stafford in the third quarter when he complained after picking up his fourth foul. There also was the questionable blocking foul called on Kwame Brown in the last minute of regulation.

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The Lakers made a couple of head-scratching plays on defense in the third quarter. Matt Carroll is known as a 3-point shooter in the NBA, so of course Maurice Evans would want to leave him to help Smush Parker off a screen-and-roll. Smush Parker also would want to leave him to go help on Melvin Ely inside.

Carroll hit two 3-pointers off those sequences. He had a career-high 27 points off the bench Friday. For what it’s worth, Carroll scored the second-most points in history as a high schooler in southeastern Pennsylvania. The only player ahead of him on the list? Kobe Bryant.

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Bryant’s 58 points were a record at Charlotte Bobcats Arena, where a naming-rights deal has not yet been reached. It would be interesting to know how many arena scoring records Bryant holds. He’s got one at Staples Center and I’m pretty sure has the record at Pepsi Center in Denver as well.

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Jackson lamented that Bryant missed the second of two free throws with 56.9 seconds left in the second overtime. It was a point that could have made a difference, although only because Bryant connected on a 3-pointer after the Bobcats had gone ahead 120-117 on a Raymond Felton 3-pointer.

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Jackson confirmed before the game that former Lakers guard Devin Green, who was playing with the D-Fenders this season, has left to play for a German club team. Jackson also offered his thoughts on Slava Medvedenko signing with the Atlanta Hawks.

“I think Slava had his opportunities with us,” Jackson said. “He had a chance to prove himself in the league. It was probably time for him to move on and find another place.

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By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C.–The Lakers came too far on this Christmas road trip, six games in 12 days, to lose to the Charlotte Bobcats with Kwame Brown’s hands betraying him in the third overtime and Kobe Bryant fouling out on a night he scored 58 points.

Yet that was what the Lakers were left with Friday, long after they should have been flying home to Los Angeles, as the Bobcats celebrated a 133-124 triumph.

It was the third-highest scoring game of Bryant’s career, coming as he went 22 of 45 from the field and played 54 minutes, and went for naught at the end of the 3 hour, 20 minute game.

The Lakers played their first three-overtime game since they lost in four overtimes to Cleveland on Jan. 29, 1980. They also lost for the second consecutive season here to the Bobcats, who won for only the eighth time in 29 games.

After the Bobcats had chances to win at the end of the first and second overtimes, the Lakers could have gone ahead 124-120 at the start of the third overtime. Bryant drove and dumped a pass to Brown for what should have been a sure basket.

Then it wasnt. Brown fumbled the ball out of bounds. He went on to commit an offensive foul and couldn’t pick up another pass in the third overtime, spoiling a game in which he finished with 11 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks.

“We’re going to feed him Butterfingers on the flight home just so he can feel the effects of it,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “There was certainly some disappointment in the ability – – or non-ability – – of Kwame to complete plays that we thought were big plays for us.

Brown, however, directed his criticism at the Lakers’ pick-and-roll defense as he walked to the team bus. The Bobcats got one basket after another in the overtime periods running the same play for Raymond Felton and Emeka Okafor.

“It’s sad that you’ve got to say we won or lost that game over a fumble,” Brown said. “The second pass wasn’t even catchable. If you look on tape, we are the worst pick and roll defensive team in the league. No way Emeka Okafor (should) get three layups at the rim.

“The reason why big men drop passes is because of pressure of a guard rotating over. We dont even rotate. Guys get layups at the rim. Thats terrible, thats terrible.

Okafor finished with 22 points and 25 rebounds while Felton had 22 points and 15 assists in 57 minutes. The Lakers eventually gave up trying to defend the screen-and-roll and went to a zone defense with 2:46 left in the second overtime.

The Lakers finished the trip with the 3-3 split Jackson wanted before setting out but wasted the chance for more. They led 105-102 in the final minute of regulation when Gerald Wallace (28 points) drove the lane out of a timeout.

Wallace went crashing into Brown, who had position and both feet out of the restricted area. He pushed in the shot while Brown was called for a blocking foul by referee Leroy Richardson.

“I dont know why it should have gone either way, Jackson said. “It definitely was a charge. But we seemed to be sold the idea that his feet were in that restricted area.

The Lakers could have won the game in regulation but Bryant missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Felton missed a potential winning 3-pointer for the Bobcats at the end of the first overtime and a runner in the lane with 2.9 seconds left in the second overtime.

The only games in which Bryant finished with more points than Friday came when he scored 81 against Toronto and 62 against Dallas last season. But Bryant found himself watching the last 5:19 of the third quarter after picking up a fourth foul.

He came back for the fourth quarter and carried the Lakers, scoring 14 of their 20 points as a team. Bryant also brought the Lakers back from down 117-113 in the second overtime, hitting a jumper and drawing contact from Okafor as part of a three-point play.

Bryant also buried a 3-pointer with 21.6 seconds left in the second overtime after Felton hit one at the other end for Charlotte. He played nearly 26 minutes without being called for a fifth foul before catching Derek Andersons arm on a 3-pointer in the third overtime.

Anderson converted all three free throws to put the Bobcats up 129-124. Bryant then fouled out with 38.2 seconds left on a charge taken by Anderson. He took 45 of the Lakers 100 shots in the game, two shy of his career high.

“Sometimes youve got to do what youve got to do to keep your team in the game, try to get a win, Bryant said. “Hopefully, our next game will be a little different.

Jackson wasnt happy Bryant had to shoulder so much of the load. The Bobcats elected to let Wallace fend for himself much of the game against Bryant, instead of the “kitchen sink defenses Bryant had seen at almost every stop on this trip.

“I was yelling at them to run their offense and get away from that, Jackson said, “and they just seemed to be going back to him all the time.

Bryant also was asked how he could pick up Brown after such a disappointing end to the game. Brown injured his right wrist in the first quarter, possibly contributing to his bad hands late.

“You dog him a little bit, Bryant said. “You let him know. You ride him a little bit. But hes a key part of this team and we know that and he knows that and hell bounce back.

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