Kobe Bryant hangs 40 on Jazz as Lakers secure first road win

He made his presence felt Wednesday night, with five blocked shots, including a game-saver on Al Jefferson’s short jumper with 1.9 seconds remaining in overtime as the Lakers held on for a 90-87 victory.

Kobe Bryant scored 40 points to lead the Lakers, including a pair of free throws with 0.7 seconds remaining for the final margin.

“Andrew kind of made of his own coverage on Al and we tried to keep telling him to get out of it,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. “But he didn’t listen to us and whatever he did, worked. So I’m going to add it to my defensive package.”

Jefferson, who was coming off a season-high 30-point effort against Cleveland on Tuesday, was held to 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

Paul Millsap led the Jazz with a season-high 29 points, hitting 14 of 24 shots.

The loss was the first at home for the Jazz this season and halted their five-game winning streak.

The Lakers embarrassed the Jazz in Utah’s season-opener, winning by 25 even without Bynum on Dec. 27.

This one was close throughout, with Millsap’s tip-in tying it at 78 with 21 seconds left in regulation.

Bryant, coming of a 48-point game Tuesday night at home against Phoenix, missed a shot at the buzzer that would have won it in regulation for Los Angeles.

Millsap then scored the first four points of overtime, but the Lakers fought back, with 3-pointers by Bryant and Pau Gasol.

“Pau’s got a green light to shoot the 3,” Brown said. “As you can tell, guys trust him. Kobe made a pass to him late in the game at a crucial point. To see him step and knock it down was huge for us.”

Seven-foot Bynum came up even bigger.

He made just 5 of 13 shots, but his tip-in with 51 seconds left in OT put the Lakers ahead 88-87.

Millsap brought the Jazz within one, then after Bryant’s miss, the Jazz found themselves with a chance to win.

Gordon Hayward had the ball and started toward the lane, only to pass it to Jefferson underneath.

Bynum was there.

“It was just a reaction,” Bynum said about his block. “I’m lucky he went for the quick flip.”

Hayward said he thought about shooting it himself.

“The clock’s winding down, a final scramble and we didn’t know what was going on,” Hayward said. “There were 8 seconds left, so I got to make a play. Maybe I could have shot a 1-2 pullup, but I thought it was the right play, the right pass. We got a good look. Bynum just made a good play.”

Bryant would block a long 3-point attempt by Devin Harris as the Jazz inbounded with 0.7 seconds remaining in OT.

The win was the first on the road for the Lakers (8-4), while Utah (6-4) is 5-1 at home.

“It felt good to get a road win here,” Bryant said. “It’s a very tough place to play and it was a huge test for us.”

But even he wasn’t so sure Gasol could knock down the 22-footer from the corner.

“Pau’s been shooting them well in practice and Coach has been urging me to trust him at the 3-point line,” Bryant said. “I thought about passing it to him, it seemed like an eternity. But I said, ‘What the hell.’

“You think Tebow prays? When that ball left his hand, I must have said 30 Hail Mary’s.”

Gasol finished with 14 points. He was just 5 of 14 overall, but hit his only 3-point attempt — his first of the season.

“Tonight was not a very effective game on our part, for the most part,” Gasol said. “But we continued to fight through it. We forgot about everything else and we made two big plays down the stretch with the put-back and the block and I was able to make a couple plays. Hopefully we’ll get the bodies that we have injured right now and it will give us a deeper rotation.”

If the Lakers were celebrating a little more than usual, they say they earned the right.

“It was a tough game. It’s hard to get a win here. Back to back, getting in here late last night, going to bed late. It’s something to be proud of as a team,” Gasol said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some sleep and get ready for another back-to-back.”

The Jazz also left feeling pretty good despite the loss, saying they are a different team than the one that faced the Lakers in the opener.

“We kept playing hard, didn’t give up,” Jefferson said. “It’s one of those games at the end of the day we wish we could have won, but we could walk out with our head up. We played hard until the end. We just got to get ready for New Jersey.”

The Jazz face the Nets on Saturday in a game that marks the return of Deron Williams for the first time since he was traded away last February.

“We’re coming, we’re getting better,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We played against a good team tonight. They were a little bit better but our effort was great.”


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