AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Kobe Bryant grimaced. The Pistons looked confused. And in the same way that he’s unexpectedly earned a spot in the rotation, Earl Clark took everyone by surprise.
The Lakers’ 98-97 victory Sunday over the Detroit Pistons may have looked ugly. But everything about the play just before halftime looked beautiful. Bryant inbounded the pass from halfcourt. Clark threw down a lob. It all happened with .04 seconds left, leaving Derek Fisher smiling somewhere after making his legendary game winner in Game 4 in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs in the same time frame.
“.04 seems to be a lucky number for us,” Bryant joked afterwards.
The Lakers were lucky period that the play worked.
That’s because Bryant’s repeated grimaces, glares and obscenities had nothing to do with trying to put on an Oscar performance as a decoy. It had everything to do with the Lakers’ execution.
“Earl forgot the play,” Bryant said. “He faked everybody out because he actually forgot what we were doing. I was staring at him like what the [expletive] are you doing? He’s like oh [expletive]. Then he takes off.”
All the good will toward Clark’s 17 points and 10 rebounds may have gone to waste had the Pistons capitalized on his two missed free throws at the end of the game. But in a game that came down to the final possession, Clark’s highlight reel to end the first half surely made a difference.
“Coach [Mike D’Antoni] drew up a great play. We just executed it,” Clark said. “Kobe threw a great pass. I just tried to get up there and finish. I’m glad I got that because I’ve got my dunk blocked this year. It feels good to make one.”
Especially since he initially didn’t know where to go.
Boasted Bryant afterwards, “It was the perfect fakeout.”
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