Los Angeles (dpa) – Kobe Bryant heated up late after Metta World Peace lost his cool early.
”The Black Mamba” scored 26 points, including six straight in the second overtime, and the LA Lakers stormed from 18 down in the third quarter Sunday, for an improbable 114-106 victory over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
”We kept our poise and just kept chipping away,” Bryant said after the Lakers’ greatest comeback of the season kept them a half game ahead of the LA Clippers atop the Pacific Division.
Spaniard Pau Gasol had 20 points with 14 rebounds and nine assists for the Lakers, who received unexpected contributions from seldom-used reserves. Jordan Hil added 14 points and 15 rebounds while Devin Ebanks had two huge steals in the final minute of the second overtime.
”I would be wrong if I sit up here and didn’t say we got two huge contributions from guys that don’t play much,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. ”There was no rhyme or reason; I just wanted to see what Hill looked like on the floor. He goes out there and he comes up with 15 boards and 14 points which is a good night.”
The Lakers’ dramatic win was marred by the late second-quarter ejection of World Peace, who was hit with a flagrant foul 2 after elbowing the left side of James Harden’s head as he celebrated a dunk.
Hardin stayed down for a few minutes before walking into the locker room at halftime. The Thunder guard sat out the rest of the contest after reportedly suffering a concussion.
”During that play I just dunked on (Kevin) Durant and (Serge) Ibaka and I got really emotional and excited and it was unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow. I hope he’s OK.” said World Peace, who finished with 12 points.
”I apologize to the Thunder and to James Harden. You know, it was such a great game and it was unfortunate so much emotion was going on at that time.”
Artest is likely to be fined and suspended for the Lakers’ regular-season finale Thursday along with a game or two of next weekend’s first-round playoff series.
”It’s not a good time for this, especially with the playoffs coming up,” Gasol said. ”We need everyone to be ready.”
Durant topped Oklahoma City with 35 points on just 11-of-34 shooting while Russell Westbrook scored 14 on a just 3-of-22 from the field. Ibaka accumulated 18 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks for the Thunder, which dropped a game and a half behind San Antonio atop the Western Conference standings.
”It was a heck of a game,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ”It was hard fought, both teams competed, and we got cold when we needed to stay hot.”
The Thunder led 87-76 with four minutes left in regulation but couldn’t hold it. Instead, Bryant buried a pair of three-pointers, including the game-tying triple with 52 seconds remaining that eventually forced overtime at 91-apiece.
With the game knotted at 102 with just over two minutes left in the second extra session, Bryant knocked down a pair of jumpers and two free throws, putting the Lakers ahead 108-104 with 36 seconds left. Ebanks made two free throws following a steal and the Lakers held on.
”We just started to put a little more pressure on the ball,” Gasol said. ”We started playing defensively like we’re supposed to.”
San Antonio Spurs 114, Cleveland Cavaliers 98:
Argentine Manu Ginobili scored 20 points, and the Spurs’ seventh straight win lowered their magic number to one to clinch the Western Conference top seed after beating the visiting Cavs.
LA Clippers 107, New Orleans Hornets 98:
Chris Paul had 33 points, 13 assists and eight steals, Randy Foye scored 24, including three of his six threes during a 33-11 closing run, and the playoff-bound Clippers rallied from 13 down to beat the visiting Hornets.
Miami Heat 97, Houston Rockets 88:
LeBron James scored 32 points and the Heat minus All-Stars Dwyane Wade (dislocated left index finger) and Chris Bosh (rested), eliminated the visiting Rockets from the post season play.
Denver Nuggets 101, Orlando Magic 74:
JaVale McGee and Danilo Gallinari scored 17 points apiece, and the Nuggets rocked the visiting Magic, who were led by Ryan Anderson’s 24 points.
New York Knicks 113, Atlanta Hawks 112:
Carmelo Anthony scored 39 points, including the go-ahead basket with 90 seconds left, Amar’e Stoudemire added 22 with 12 rebounds and blocked Marvin Williams’ potential game-winning dunk attempt at the buzzer, as the visiting Knicks held off the Hawks, in a battle of Eastern Conference playoff-bound clubs.
Williams led Atlanta with season-highs of 29 points and 11 rebounds.
Detroit Pistons 76, Toronto Raptors 73:
Ben Gordon scored 19 points, including the go-ahead triple with 2:44 left, and the Pistons edged the visiting Raptors in a match-up of lottery-bound teams.
Sacramento Kings 114, Charlotte Bobcats 88:
DeMarcus Cousins had 29 points with 10 rebounds and the visiting Kings extended the league-worst Bobcats’ (7-56) losing streak to a franchise-record 20 games.
Golden State Warriors 93, Minnesota Timberwolves 88:
Charles Jenkins scored 24 points, Brandon Rush added 19, including the go-ahead triple with 69 seconds left, and the visiting Warriors rallied from 21 down in the second quarter to snap an eight-game slide.