The Orlando Magic held off the Los Angeles Lakers for a 96-94 win on Sunday night, with Kobe Bryant missing the chance to tie the game in the dying seconds. In a rematch of the last year's NBA finals, Vince Carter had 25 points for the Magic, who withstood a game-high 34-point effort from Bryant.
Bryant tallied 18 in the fourth quarter, where the Lakers came back from 10 points down before losing their third game in a row. It is the first time the Lakers (46-18) have lost three games in succession since January 2008. Orlando (44-20) recorded their fifth consecutive win, with all five starters scoring in double figures. "I'm glad that Kobe missed. We didn't make free throws but we got the win and that's all that matters," said Orlando's Dwight Howard, who scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
"They beat us last year and we wanted to show them they're not going to beat us anymore." The Magic led for nearly the entire game, taking a 74-64 advantage into the fourth before the defending NBA champions scored eight points to start the final quarter. With Los Angeles trailing by three points, Bryant made what he thought was his second successive three-pointer to tie the game with 12 seconds left, but his foot was on the line and the visitors were left still trailing by one.
Carter split a pair of free throws to put the Magic up by two and give the Lakers one last chance, but Bryant missed his shot. "You could see it in everybody's faces and everybody's demeanour," Carter said. "Everybody on that floor wanted to win that game. "It wasn't just, 'Yeah, OK, whatever.' It was, 'Let's go get it.' That game was [like a] Game Seven." "Everybody is gunning for us," said the Lakers forward Lamar Odom. "It's tough to put yourself in a position to repeat. We have to understand that."
Elsewhere in the NBA, the Detroit Pistons ended a six-game losing streak with a 110-107 overtime victory over the Houston Rockets. Will Bynum, who had 12 points and 11 assists, dedicated the win to his teammate Rodney Stuckey, who collapsed during Friday's game against Cleveland. "The most important thing tonight is that Rodney is back home and it looks like he's healthy," Bynum said.
"Once we learned that, we could start worrying about trying to get a win tonight. I haven't had many chances lately, and we haven't won many games. "Tonight, both happened, and it feels good." Several of Bynum's assists went to Tayshaun Prince, who continued his resurgence with a season-high 29 points. Prince, who has struggled after the first serious injury of his career, has averaged 26 points in Detroit's past two games. "Tay was hot, so I just kept feeding him the ball," Bynum said. "It is good to see him playing like that."
* With agencies