LOS ANGELES (AP)—After giving up leads of 15 points and 14 points in their previous two games, the Los Angeles Lakers came within a 3-point miss by Kelenna Azubuike of squandering an 18-point advantage to the Golden State Warriors.
Now the defending Western Conference champions begin their longest trip of the season—seven games—on Saturday night at Chicago, and don’t play again at Staples Center until April 3 against Houston.
“Jeanie wants me to have my suits sent ahead and not even pack,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said in reference to girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ executive vice president of business operations. “But I don’t feel that luxurious about my life yet. I still need to pack my own bags.”
Jackson then packed away his trademark bemused grin and got serious.
“It’s a road trip that we have to play every game with that mentality of playing consistent conservative basketball,” the Hall of Fame said.
Bryant feels that a long road trip is just what the Lakers need to prevent them from becoming too complacent before the playoffs begin.
“It’s good that it is coming up at this time of year,” said Bryant, who committed five of the team’s 22 turnovers. “If you go out on the road, basically it’s us against the world, so to speak. So we are able to bond and connect. These type of trips build great momentum.”
The Lakers, who haven’t lost consecutive home games since a three-game stretch last March, bounced back from a 94-93 defeat to Philadelphia on Tuesday night in which they blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and lost on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Andre Iguodala.
On Sunday, they gave up a 15-point third-quarter lead against Dallas, and trailed by six in the fourth before rallying for a 107-100 win.
Jackson acknowledged that his team is far from being playoff-ready on defense—something that cost them in last year’s finals against Boston when they blew a 24-point lead at home before losing Game 4.
“We talked about that yesterday,” Jackson said. “We had a list of seven items up there on the boards that were haunting us, starting with turnovers in transition plays and offensive rebounds, which are dead-giveway types of things, and understanding our rotations that we have to do when we get into screen-roll situations.”
Thursday’s victory was the Lakers’ 31st at home, eclipsing last season’s total, and kept them a full game behind Cleveland for the NBA’s best record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs with 14 games remaining.
Monta Ellis scored 27 points and Azubuike added 25 for the Warriors, who have lost 19 of their last 22 meetings with the Lakers and are 2-18 at Staples Center since the arena opened in 1999.
“There’s nothing we can say. we left it all on the court,” Ellis said. They made more good plays than we did down the stretch.”
The Lakers took a 77-59 lead on Derek Fisher’s 3-pointer with 3:34 left in the third quarter. The Warriors scored the next 12 points to make it a six-point differential. But Sasha Vujacic scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, and Lamar Odom converted a pair of 3-point plays 66 seconds apart to give Los Angeles a 101-86 lead with 5:59 to play.
Golden State then went on a 16-4 run capped by Jackson’s fastbreak layup with 2:40 remaining, after off one of six Lakers turnovers in the final quarter. But Azubuike missed a 3 that would have tied the game, and that was the Warriors’ last gasp.
Bryant who did not shoot any free throws against Philadelphia, didn’t attempt a foul shot against the Warriors until he completed a three-point play that gave the Lakers a 105-95 lead with 3:49 to play.
In a game that pitted the league’s top rebounding team against the worst, the Lakers held a 50-42 advantage. Gasol had 14 boards and Odom had 12, along with 16 points.
Warriors leading scorer Stephen Jackson returned to the lineup, scoring 10 points and shooting 5-for-17. He sat out Tuesday’s victory over the Clippers because of an automatic one-game suspension he received for getting his 16th technical foul of the season in Sunday’s loss to Phoenix.