With apologies to Jerry West, the Lakers' modern-day "Mr. Clutch" did it again.
Kobe Bryant hit yet another buzzer-beating 3-pointer and finished with 39 points as the defending NBA champions overcame a 20-point deficit to beat the Sacramento Kings 109-108 on Friday night. The last time the Lakers won a game in which they trailed by 20 or more points was Dec. 12, 2006, when they erased a 21-point deficit in a 112-101 double-overtime win against Houston at Los Angeles.
"It looked like they went into a zone coverage on the inbounds pass, and that side was wide open," said Bryant, averaging 35.7 points in his last 10 games.
"It was just a matter of me getting to that spot with enough time to get a shot off. Phil drew up a play for a 3. He wanted me to get a good look and knock it down. I think he wanted to get out of here."
Lamar Odom had a season-high 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the NBA-leading Lakers (26-6). Pau Gasol had 17 points, 16 rebounds and four assists _ one of which set up Bryant's clutch basket from in front of the Sacramento bench.
"Kobe's shooting the ball at a high percentage," Gasol said. "But he's not always going to shot like that. We understand that, and I think he understands that, too. But when he's feeling it and the shots are going down, he's going to keep shooting."
Spencer Hawes had a career-high 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Kings, Omri Casspi scored 23 points, and Beno Udrih added 19 points and 13 assists.
"I am so proud of our team _ but at the same time, it's disappointing," Sacramento coach Paul Westphal said. "We've played well enough to beat those guys twice, but they have a knack at the end of games. We got everything we needed, performance-wise, from everybody that played, and we couldn't close it out. That's one of the things that makes the Lakers so good. Kobe is an unbelievable player, no question about it."
One night after scoring a season-high 44 points and getting a season-best 11 assists, Bryant added another chapter to his Hall of Fame resume. This miracle shot came exactly four weeks after his off-balance 3-point buzzer-beating bank shot that pulled out a win over the Miami Heat at Staples Center. On Dec. 16 at Milwaukee, Bryant hit a 15-footer as time expired in overtime to give the Lakers a 107-106 win.
"These players _ I don't know how they get themselves into those positions, but they do an unbelievable job of hitting shots that are remarkable shots, marvelous shots," coach Phil Jackson said. "He's right there with Michael in that kind of breath you look at."
The Lakers came out as flat as half-empty champagne bottles left over from New Year's Eve, shooting 37 percent from the field in the first half and trailing 64-49 at intermission. Derek Fisher was the biggest offender, missing nine of 10 shots in the half while the Kings had the highest-scoring half by a Lakers opponent this season.
Fisher, who had six points, played 9 minutes in the third quarter without taking a shot, then sat out the entire fourth quarter.
The sellout crowd let the Lakers feel their pain, booing them loudly after Jon Brockman's layup gave Sacramento a 38-23 lead with 9:12 left in the second quarter. The Kings built the lead to 20 at 52-32 with a 3-pointer by Ime Udoka that capped a 26-9 run with 5:06 left in the half.
"I think we kind of took the pedal off," Hawes said. "We knew they were going to make a run. It was inevitable. We knew that we couldn't sit up by 20 points the whole game. And they chipped away and chipped away to put themselves in a position to win it at the end. That's why he's Kobe. He makes big shots at big times."
In their previous game, Tuesday night at Staples Center, the Lakers fell behind by 15 points to Golden State and gave up 60 points in the first half before pulling out a 124-118 win.
NOTES: According to Jackson, it looks as though Ron Artest will be back playing by early next week, following the fall at his home on Christmas night that caused a concussion, a deep cut on his left elbow and a slight loss of memory. "He's improved significantly in the last two days, and optimistic that he'll be able to practice soon _ probably not a full-out practice with contact tomorrow, but will have non-contact activity with the team," Jackson said. "There's a number of checks they go through with concussions, like speech patterns. But with Ron, that doesn't work." ... This was only the third time in the last 36 years that the Lakers played on New Year's Day. Their overall record on Jan. 1 is 9-6. ... It was the first time the Kings played on New Year's Day since the vagabond franchise moved from Kansas City to Sacramento in 1985-86. They are 11-9 overall on this date (0-3 in K.C., 4-4 in Cincinnati and 7-1 in Rochester). ... With 24,800 career points, Bryant is 16 points away from overtaking Patrick Ewing for 15th place.
(This version CORRECTS Lakers 109, Kings 108. SUBS 8th graf to correct to "pulled")