Kobe's 41 Not Enough to Get Lakers Past Orlando

For the second night in a row, the Lakers found themselves trailing a close game late. And for the second night in a row, a last-second shot from Kobe Bryant couldn't save them. L.A. dropped its second in a row, losing to the Magic in Orlando by a score of 106-103.

The Lakers weren't without their chances in this one. Kobe came out firing, going for 25 points in the first half, helping his team get out to a 58-49 lead at the break. But Orlando put up 36 points in the third quarter, and outscored L.A. by 10 in the period to take a one-point lead heading into the fourth.

The rest of the game was a tight one that the Lakers had a chance to grab down the stretch, but it wasn't meant to be. Orlando had gone up by three with just over a minute and a half remaining, when Derek Fisher hit a big three-pointer in the corner to tie it at 101. After a few possessions where the teams exchanged some free throws, the Magic found themselves up by one at 104-103 with possession and under 35 seconds to play. Jameer Nelson caught Fisher in the face with his off arm though, and was whistled for the offensive foul. With the Lakers in prime position to steal this one, they of course got the ball into Kobe's hands.

Bryant took the ball strong to the rack, and the defense collapsed. He kicked it out along the baseline to a wide open Sasha Vujacic in the corner, whose three-point attempt went in and out with three seconds remaining. Sasha was visibly upset with himself for missing the shot -- maybe a little too much -- and Kobe was seen consoling him as the team broke the huddle following the ensuing timeout. Dwight Howard made both free throws after the Lakers intentionally fouled, and Kobe's long, contested three-pointer to tie at the buzzer rimmed out, sending the Lakers to their second close loss in as many nights.

As for the battle of the big men between Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard, early foul trouble kept it from being much of a matchup at all. Bynum picked up two fouls in the first minute and five seconds of the game trying to check Howard, and could never get into any kind of rhythm the rest of the night. He finished with three points, one rebound, and five personal fouls in just 12 minutes of action. Howard played through his foul trouble however, and ended up with a respectable line of 18 points and 12 rebounds in 31 minutes, despite his five fouls.

Orlando is a tough team, and there's no shame in losing to them on the road basically at the buzzer. But following the previous night's loss against a below average Miami team, and on a night where Kobe clearly gave maximum effort offensively, it's a disappointing one nonetheless.

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