Looking at the Lakers' other triple-overtime games
Every player is going to have differing lasting images of the Lakers' 139-137 triple overtime win Tuesday over the Phoenix Suns.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will cherish dampening the Suns' slim playoff hopes, just one example of avenging the Lakers' first-round losses to Phoenix in 2006 and 2007. Lakers forward Lamar Odom will forever remember the foul he committed on Channing Frye that gave him three free throws to force overtime. Lakers forward Pau Gasol will cherish the two free throws he hit to force a third overtime. Lakers forward Ron Artest will likely remember the air kisses and muscle poses he demonstrated after hitting key baskets. And Lakers guard Shannon Brown will remember the immediate aftermath involving playing knockout with knockout with representatives from Budweiser, as part of a Lakers' sponsored event.
The Lakers' fifth triple overtime affair since moving to Los Angeles in 1960 also conjures up reflections on the other four contests.
Dec. 29, 2006: Lakers' 133-124 triple-overtime loss to Charlotte Bobcats
Coach Phil Jackson sent a warning to his team that proved both tongue-in-cheek and a telling omen.
"Don't pack yourself along with your bags," he told his players, as reported by The Times' Mike Bresnhan, in reference to a game against the nondescript Charlotte Bobcats on the last stop of a six-game trip. But the advice seemingly went unheeded.
Kobe Bryant surely did his part, scoring 58 points on 22-for-45 shooting, the second-highest shot total of his career and one shy of the 46 shots he took while scoring a career-high 81 points the previous season against Toronto. There was really no need to fret over Bryant's fatigue even if it did spur a drop in his shooting after he started 16 for 27 from the field, or even dissect his missed 26-foot three-pointer as time expired in regulation. Jackson put most of the blame on Kwame Brown, who had three turnovers in the third overtime.
"We're going to feed [Brown] Butterfingers on the flight home just so he can feel the effects of it," Jackson told reporters. "There was certainly some disappointment in the ability, or non-ability, of Kwame to complete plays that we thought were big plays for us. His teammates are disappointed. He just has to accept the fact that the next time he gets that chance, he doesn't [fumble]."
Here were the plays that made the Lakers and Jackson so upset: Brown dropped a pass in the post from Bryant that could have led to an easy basket. He was later called for an offensive foul. And then he fumbled a pass down low from Luke Walton. Instead of taking responsibility, however, Brown blamed the Lakers' pick-and-roll defense.
"It's sad that you've got to say we won or lost that game over a fumble," said Brown, who sustained a slightly sprained right wrist when he fell to the court in the first quarter. "The second pass wasn't even catchable."
Jan. 29, 1980: Lakers' 154-153 quadruple-overtime loss to Cleveland Cavaliers
The Lakers' team motto was written on the locker room chalkboard: "Never surrender, no matter the odds." It took three hours 17 minutes for the Lakers to realize that motto doesn't always work. It also wasn't exactly how the Lakers had envisioned they would open a five-game trip, having to use all of their energy in one game. Things turned out all right, with the Lakers finishing the trip 4-2, but the immediate feelings afterward focused on the team's energy level.
"It was exhausting," interim Coach Paul Westhead told reporters. "We're just totally spent, and to come up with a loss. ... The guys played very hard and lost, so there's no consolation."
The Lakers' inconsistency only prolonged the game. The first half of regulation consisted of what The Times' Scott Ostler argued to be "absolutely their worst half of the season," thanks to 23 turnovers that led to 23 Cleveland points. The second half proved a much different story. The Lakers overcame an 11-point deficit and had a three-point advantage after three quarters, a lead that ballooned to 14 with 6:51 left in regulation. The Lakers could have held on for the win had Norm Nixon's jumper gone in with 16 seconds remaining.
He made up for the miss in the first overtime, however. Nixon's drive with 16 seconds remaining and Michael Cooper's steal that led to a jumper with seven seconds remaining forced an extra session. The second overtime featured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar making two of three free throws to tie the score, though he couldn't convert on a layin off an inbounds pass with one second left. He opened the third overtime with a shot that bounced off the backboard, but his basket in the paint on the Lakers' last possession extended the game to a fourth overtime.
The Lakers appeared close to a win, nursing a five-point lead with 1:47 left in the fourth session, but the Cavaliers scored six unanswered points. Nixon's layup that was ruled goaltending with five seconds remaining could have clinched the victory, but Jim Chones committed a foul with two seconds remaining on Mike Mitchell, who made both free throws to secure the win.
"I'm spent, I'm just hollow-eyed," Cleveland Coach and former Lakers assistant Stan Albeck told reporters. "That's the best basketball game I've ever been involved with from an entertainment standpoint."
Feb. 1, 1969: Lakers' 122-117 triple-overtime loss to San Francisco Warriors
A sign of how times have changed: The Times' Mal Florence reported that an unidentified person reported that a bomb had been planted inside the Forum, but members of the L.A. fire and police departments did not begin searching the premises until after the game. The news itself was buried in the game story several paragraphs into a page inside the sports section, though at least the headline made mention of the scare. No bomb was found.
Bomb scare or not, it proved hard enough for both the Lakers and Warriors to focus, and the teams had played each other the night before. The Lakers were also playing their third game in three nights. The fatigue surely kicked in for the Lakers, who wasted an 84-77 lead with two minutes left in regulation. After the Lakers led for most of the first two overtimes, they squandered numerous opportunities.
John Eagan traveled twice, including one that led to San Francisco forcing overtime on the next possession. With the Lakers holding a 99-97 lead with 40 seconds left in the first overtime, Elgin Baylor was called for a carry. That set up ex-Laker Rudy LaRusso's hook shot that forced a second overtime. With the Lakers nursing a 108-105 lead with 1:10 left in the second overtime, Eagan failed to get the ball past halfcourt before 10 seconds elapsed. Though Baylor's two free throws moments later gave the Lakers a 110-108 lead, the Warriors' Bobby Lewis drove the baseline uncontested to tie the score with 18 seconds remaining. On the next possession, Baylor couldn't get a good look over LaRusso, leading to a third overtime.
Florence wrote that the Warriors clinched the game with 45 seconds left in the third overtime when LaRusso drove around Baylor and scored on a short jumper. Even though the Lakers still had a chance to win, facing a 120-117 deficit with 21 seconds remaining, Keith Erickson was called for traveling. The loss snapped the Lakers' five-game winning streak and trimmed their Western Division lead to 3 1/2 games over Atlanta
Lakers' 151-147 win Dec. 8, 1961 to the Philadelphia Warriors.
Somehow, someway the Lakers managed to absorb Wilt Chamberlain's 78 points, a precursor to his 100-point performance nearly three months later.
Chamberlain's performance, which was later broken by Bryant when he scored 81 points Jan. 22, 2006 against Toronto, came on 31 of 62 shooting and 16 free throws, showing that very little could stop The Stilt. That season, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points in 45 minutes, becoming the only player to crack the 4,000 point mark. Chamberlain's performance also broke Elgin Baylor's 71-point performance that was an NBA record just a month earlier.
-- Mark Medina
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Top photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest, right, and guard Kobe Bryant celebrate following Artest's slam dunk during the closing seconds of the Lakers' 139-137 triple-overtime victory Tuesday over the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
Middle photo: The Lakers couldn't handle the Charlotte Bobcats in triple overtime nearly 4 1/2 years ago. Credit: Chuck Burton / AP
Bottom photo: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson celebrated after winning the 1980 NBA championship. That season featured the Lakers losing 154-153 Jan. 29, 1980 in quadruple overtime against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Credit: Associated Press / June 20, 1980