BOSTON — Kobe Bryant took 47 shots Thursday night and the Lakers were only too glad he did.
They lost and Bryant took 47 shots and the only question later was why he hadn't taken a 48th, because maybe that would have fallen and maybe they wouldn't have lost another game.
They lost to the Boston Celtics, in overtime, 98-95, before a FleetCenter crowd that first booed Bryant's every touch, and then gasped, and then covered its eyes. Standing amid a lineup that wouldn't shoot straight, Bryant made 17 shots and scored 41 points, most isolated on a wing against Paul Pierce, 18 in a frantic third quarter that saw the Lakers come back from what once was a 17-point deficit.
For six games, Bryant's game has lurched from shooter to facilitator and back, settling finally in a taut second half in which the Lakers led with a minute left in regulation and again early in the overtime, only to lose both leads.
Afterward, Bryant said he did not regret his choices, as he had in a season opener in which he took 29 shots.
"It is what it is," he said.
He made eight of 13 attempts in the third quarter, then three of 15 in the fourth. He missed all eight three-point attempts. Only three Los Angeles Lakers had attempted more shots, including Elgin Baylor, who took 55 in a game 41 years ago. Bryant's 28 second-half attempts tied Baylor's record for a half.
Bryant's last shot, a heave from the left side to tie the score with time running out, hit the side of the rim. He grimaced and walked the length of the court, while confetti fell around him, and Celtics hugged behind him.
Pierce scored 28 points. Tony Delk had 26. Pierce had scored on a step-back three-pointer to give the Celtics a 96-93 lead in overtime and then Bryant had made a 15-foot turn-around. Delk made two free throws with 9.3 seconds left for a three-point lead, and finally Bryant stood out on the left side with time dwindling away, having missed his first seven from that far, and no one doubting he'd shoot it.
"There's a limitation to what you can do," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said after the rest of the Lakers made 20 of 48 shots. "I was telling the team that he carried us back into the ballgame. You've got to stop going to the well all the time. The well will run dry eventually. Somebody has to start contributing."
Jackson did not disagree that Bryant had little choice. After the Lakers scored 70 points in Cleveland, they shot 32.5% and scored 35 points in the first half against the Celtics.
Open teammates are nice and all, but they're fairly useless if they can't make a jump shot, and so arrived Bryant at the second half. For the better part of four games, Bryant took the floor, leaving Shaquille O'Neal on the bench, with the intention of setting up shots and spit-shining the triangle offense.
After consecutive triple-doubles and a close encounter with a third, Bryant took back the basketball.
"Tonight it was really out of necessity," Bryant said. "We were down 15 points [at halftime]. I think a lot of my teammates were discouraged and looking for direction to put the ball in the hole. We weren't shooting the ball very well. It was my job to come out and instill confidence in everybody else that we could come back and we can make shots and we can win the game."
It became Bryant's game, without question, and he took it to Pierce and the Celtics without a second thought. A week and a half before, he was criticized for taking those 29 shots against the San Antonio Spurs. This time, he missed 30.
Jackson said he would have been surprised if 47 shots weren't a message from Bryant to his teammates, that if they weren't going to make shots and the team was going to score 70 points again, then he'd take them all.
"No," Bryant said, shaking his head. "But, for example, when we played Cleveland, that wasn't the situation. Our confidence was a little shaky, but it could be regained. Tonight, we came in at halftime and everybody had their heads down. I told them, 'Don't worry about it, everybody. We're going to come out in the second half, everything's going to be all right.' So I started hitting some shots and getting into a rhythm and everybody else started getting in rhythm. It was good....
"I told the guys after the game, 'Look, you don't understand, we came up here, we played without two of our key guys, we were down 17 against a Celtics team that was in the Eastern Conference finals, playing at full strength, and we came in here and we fought them hard. We gave ourselves a chance to win the game. We made some mental errors down the stretch and it cost us the ballgame. Big deal. It's early in the season. We'll learn from our mental mistakes. Let's move on. We got another game tomorrow night.' "
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
All Fired Up
Kobe Bryant finished with 41 points in a 98-95 overtime loss to Boston, but he needed 47 shots to reach that total. A look at Lakers with the most field-goal attempts in a game:
*--* Att Player Opponent Year 55 Elgin Baylor Philadelphia 1961 48 Elgin Baylor New York 1960 47 Elgin Baylor Boston 1959 47 Kobe Bryant Boston 2002 45 George Mikan Rochester 1952 45 Elgin Baylor Detroit 1961
A look at how the Lakers have fared after six games since Phil Jackson became coach:
*--* Year W-L PPG OPPG '99-2000 5-1 98.8 92.5 2000-01 3-3 91.5 91.7 2001-02 6-0 106.3 93.2 2002-03 2-4 90.5 94.0