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Kobe and Pau Rock Milwaukee

It's so nice when loyalty is rewarded. You sit through two-and-a-half hours of a December game in Milwaukee, an often dreary game at that, and as a fan you deserve something fun to show for it. Stay cool, stay patient, don't change the channel, don't head out to dinner just yet. Kobe Bryant will make it worth your while.

Playing stage two of a road back-to-back set, the Lakers spent the night scuffling with a feisty Bucks squad - sometimes pulling a bit ahead, sometimes falling a bit behind, never quite seizing the win nor conceding the loss. Pau Gasol was beastly from beginning to end. He had a double-dub by halftime and finished with 26 points, 22 rebounds, four assists and four blocks. Kobe was on-and-off with his game, struggling with turnovers again but manufacturing points from midrange and the stripe. At the end of regulation, he missed a 15-footer that could have won the game.

At the end of overtime, though, he buried the shot that changed everything. It was a little 16-foot turnaround that we've seen a hundred times from him. The trajectory was perfectly on target, and it brought about a fairly stunning comeback win. The final score was Lake Show 107, Bucks 106.

To get to that final possession with the game still in reach, a number of strange little events had to fall into place. With the game tied and 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Michael Redd fired a three that went half way down the basket before popping out. A Derek Fisher jump shot later, Andrew Bogut hit a turnaround in the post, tying the game once again, and drew the "And 1." With 20 seconds on the clock, however, he biffed the free throw that would've put Milwaukee ahead. The Lakers lived to fight in overtime.

The Laker D, which had started to splinter in the fourth, really started to crack apart in the extra stanza. In their first six OT possessions, the Bucks scored 11 points to open up a six-point lead. Despair's icy hand tickled the back of every Laker fan's neck. Phil Jackson was riding the first unit hard - Kobe would end up playing 50 minutes, Pau 49 - and heavy legs were starting to show. Redd, Luke Ridnour and Ersan Ilyasova were both finding makeable looks and actually making them.

Kobe responded with a nine-foot J to make it 102-106, and then the weirdness really started. Ilyasova (who had a wonderful game) went to the line for two shots and honked them both. On the following Laker possession, Kobe spun into a lane bristling with Bucks defenders and crashed into Andrew Bogut while flipping the ball up and in. Whistle. And 1. Free-throw good, cue Milwaukee fan outrage.

Still with the lead and the ball, the Bucks proceeded to miss two shots before Ron Artest secured the rebound with seven seconds to play. The game-ender, as seen below, is uncut, grade-A schadenfreude. Watch it, watch it again, and then a couple more times just for giggles.

The Lakers are now 20-4 and get two days off before facing New Jersey on Saturday. There are a couple things they need to clean up. Three-point shooting continues to be awful: the Lakers have made only 11 of 57 attempts from distance over the last three games. They need to start knocking them down. Offensive rebounding also needs to improve, as they've recovered less than 20% of their own misses for two straight games now. Pau is a monster on the boards these days, but he's not getting much help.

There will be time to worry about those things tomorrow. Tonight, all of Lakerdom toasts the Black Mamba.








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