Saturday report

We’re trying to streamline things as much as possible to accommodate the most inches in Sunday’s paper following up on Kobe Bryant’s 65-point game. It’s not going to get the attention it deserves on a busy NCAA Tournament weekend (and because Bryant scored 81 only last season) but consider that it was one of the top 20 scoring games in NBA history.

There are so many things that will be overlooked from that game, such as the fact that Bryant scored the Lakers’ first 15 points of the second quarter. Or that he banked in a half-court shot that didn’t count after a clear-path foul. Or that he mixed it up with Zach Randolph and drew a technical foul. Or that he did it in the second game of a back-to-back set after the Lakers lost their previous two games by a combined 63 points.

All you needed to see was the 3-point barrage that Bryant unleashed in the last two minutes of regulation and overtime to get the Lakers to the finish line. If you opened up the paper in Portland this morning, the game story in the Oregonian had a Los Angeles dateline followed by a two-word lead: “Kobe Bryant.” Maybe nothing more needed to be written.

Here’s your Luke Walton’s update: Walton said his ankle was feeling “60 times” better than it did Friday, when he had to sit out what would have been his second game back from the injury. He went through layup lines but couldn’t get the ankle to loosen up. He told coach Phil Jackson that he could run the offense “but I couldn’t drive or I couldn’t pull up and do anything like that.”

Walton, who missed six weeks with the injury, said he would play Sunday against Minnesota. It also didn’t help Walton that the Lakers were up all night after Thursday’s game against Denver because of the problems with their charter flight. There also was a question about whether the ankle would be a game-to-game thing going forward.

“All week before, I practiced and when it would get sore, I’d go ice it. By the end of the day, or the next morning, it’d feel great again,” Walton said. “Hopefully, a couple more games, it’ll get strong enough to where I won’t need to take a day off.”

Walton also had a good quote when he was asked if he sees Bryant regularly hit the kind of 3-pointers in practice that he did at the end of Friday’s game.

“He’s got such great body control and balance,” Walton said, “that when he does it, by the time he ends up shooting the ball, he’s just shooting like a fadeaway 3-pointer. He was doing it before practice today, and he was making not all of them, but he was making enough to where you’re like, `That’s pretty impressive.”’

Jackson also talked about Kwame Brown, who left for the locker room to treat his ankle before halftime. Brown returned to start the second half and gutted out the rest of the game. Brown’s ankle was so bad that Lamar Odom had to jump center at the start of overtime instead of the center.

“It’s was like, `Let’s see if we can’t fuss our way through this thing because he makes such a difference for us,”’ Jackson said. “If we don’t have to double-team or stunt defensively, suddenly our whole defensive game becomes better.”

Maurice Evans also had a good quote after Friday’s game: “Nothing’s coming easy for this Lakers team right now. We’ve got guys out there, Kwame was on one leg, I was on one leg. Ronny’s back’s spasming, Lamar’s shoulder’s out, Luke can’t go because his ankle’s stil messed up. We’ve got to fight through a lot of adversity right now. A little sunshine comes in every once in awhile.”

Don’t look now but Bryant is closing in on Carmelo Anthony for what would be his second consecutive scoring title. After his 65-point game, Bryant is averaging 29.7 points per game to Anthony’s 29.8. If Anthony maintains his average the rest of the way, Bryant would have to average 30.5 ppg these last 16 games to pass him.

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When he was breaking down tape of the Portland game, Jackson said he was talking to his players about making the extra effort. He was disappointed to see the Lakers slow to rotate on defense and giving up a 3-pointer to Ime Udoka. Maurice Evans also left Martell Webster to help on a drive and gave up a 3-pointer to the young guard.

It made the hole that Bryant had to dig the Lakers out of that much deeper. One example of a play where the Lakers did make the extra effort came in overtime, when Smush Parker lost his dribble but dove to the floor after the loose ball. It led to a Lamar Odom dunk. Jackson also cited Odom’s block of Brandon Roy with 30.9 seconds left.

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By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

EL SEGUNDO–Theres only 3 feet of room to operate between the 3-point arc and the sideline in the deepest corners of an NBA court. Yet Kobe Bryant found space enough in the final minute of overtime Friday night to hit a shot that stretched the imagination.

More than that, Bryants turnaround 3-pointer from the corner, while seemingly boxed in by Portlands Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, might have cracked open a window of opportunity for the Lakers at the end of a seven-game losing streak.

The first step was to end the skid, and the Lakers have Bryant to thank after he hit three 3-pointers in the last two minutes of regulation, plus his mind-bending 3-pointer in overtime, on the way to 65 points and a victory over the Trail Blazers.

The second step is to build on whatever confidence that created. Even Bryant noticed a change at Saturdays practice, saying, “Guys seemed to be in much better spirits today. Hopefully, itll be something that can kind of carry us for a while.

It was the second-highest scoring game in Bryants career and fourth-highest scoring game in franchise history, after Bryants 81 against Toronto last season, Elgin Baylors 71 in November 1960 and Wilt Chamberlains 66 in February 1969.

In fact, Bryant said he felt hotter in Fridays game than his 81-point masterpiece. He made 11 of 13 shots and all five 3-pointers he took in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“Every shot that left my hand just felt absolutely good, Bryant said, “like it was going to hit the bottom of the net.

Bryants 65 points tied for the 19th highest scoring game in NBA history. The list of players ever to reach that number in a game is a short one: Chamberlain, Bryant, David Thompson, David Robinson, Baylor, Michael Jordan and Pete Maravich.

If the Lakers had taken their team picture after Fridays game – – as opposed to before Saturdays practice – – Bryant might as well have stood alone. A one-man band rarely hits the right notes, but Bryant delivered a victory the Lakers had to have.

“We dont want to have to force him into that kind of a need situation night after night, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, “but when were going as bad as we are now, we welcome that.

Bryant led the Lakers back after Lamar Odom missed two free throws with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter and the Trail Blazers took a seven-point lead. The degree of difficulty only increased with each 3-pointer, until the last with 44.1 seconds in overtime.

“If he would have missed one of those, Luke Walton said, “it would have been game over.

With the score tied 108-108, Bryant spun free from Roy, then buried the shot from the corner over Aldridge. He hadnt seen a replay until Saturday morning, but was able to share a laugh with owner Jerry Buss about it.

“I told him, `I got a good look, Bryant said. “He said, `Good look? The guys hand was in your face. I said, `I didnt see his hand. All I saw was the basket.

Jackson has framed the rest of the season in terms of getting players back and building momentum for the playoffs. Its a process that could take the final 16 games. Or it could have been accelerated by one spectacular night from Bryant.

There were signs in overtime that the Lakers were riding shotgun with Bryant, as opposed to piling in the backseat to ride out a game he would win or lose: Odom and Smush Parker knocked down jumpers; Parker dove to the floor after a loose ball.

“Theyre continuing to be aggressive, and a lot of that has to do with Lamar and him being assertive, Bryant said. “Me taking over games but him still being able to continue that offensive thrust, and I think the other guys just kind of followed suit.

The Lakers rode Bryants scoring into the playoffs last season before coming together as a team and pushing Phoenix to seven games in the first round. They hoped the days of Bryant having to score 50 to win were behind them but injuries changed that plan.

“We dont have the same core that we had last year thats healthy right now, so its tough to rely on that, Bryant said. “Youve got to do what youve got to do until we get that rhythm back.

There was still some unfinished business for Bryant at Saturdays practice, namely a bet forward Ronny Turiaf made with him after the game. He would give Bryant five shots to hit two turnaround 3-pointers from the corner.

Did he deliver?

“What do you think? Bryant said. “I just needed to make two, so I was goofing around for the first three.