Bryant scored 31 points including the go-ahead jumper in overtime as the Los Angeles Lakers got tested in their first road game of the season, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98 on Tuesday night.
Bryant connected on a turnaround jumper from the left side with 2:29 to play to give the defending NBA champions a 99-97 lead and then hit two free throws with 18 seconds remaining to push the lead to three.
"When Kobe's out there, he wants it," said Artest, who signed with the Lakers in the offseason. "That's the great thing. He wants it. It's not like I have to really go get it."
Bryant had been fighting through flu-like symptoms earlier in the day but his fever went down before the game started. He finished 9 for 22 and had seven turnovers, but came through when it counted.
"I've been through a lot worse than this," Bryant said. He felt fortunate that he was able to play, considering the concerns over swine flu, and expected to sleep and get fluids on the Lakers' trip to Houston for their first back-to-back of the season.
Bryant grabbed the ball after Westbrook's miss and tossed it toward the opposite end of the court to allow the final seconds to run off the clock.
"I liked him sometimes and sometimes I didn't like him," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "I think he was a little dehydrated when he ran off at the end and let Sefolosha have a wide-open 3. He made plays that he makes in ballgames. He got to the free-throw line and made some free throws. He was able to control the game at the end."
Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 28 points but airballed a pair of shots that could have given the Thunder the lead in the closing minute of regulation and overtime.
He dribbled the ball to run down the final few seconds of the fourth quarter before coming up empty on a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with 2.7 seconds left, but Sefolosha stole the Lakers' ensuing inbounds pass to send the game to overtime.
Durant then had an airball on a 17-footer from the right side in the final 30 seconds of overtime that could've put Oklahoma City ahead again. Bryant was fouled intentionally and hit two free throws to provide the final margin.
"We tell him he's going to be in that situation a lot, and every time you're in that situation, you learn from it," Thunder point guard Kevin Ollie said of Durant. "I think he's going to get better and better as we go on through this season, and he's going to have the opportunity once again. I think he's going to step up and knock down the shots and we're going to win games. We're going to ride it out with Kevin."
Jeff Green had 18 points for Oklahoma City while Westbrook and Sefolosha each scored 12.
"Going into overtime against a team like the Lakers is something that we say we can pride ourselves on," Sefolosha said. "Even though we lost, we had a lot of opportunities to win this game."
The Lakers have won their last 10 games against the Thunder franchise, dating back to its days in Seattle.
Sefolosha hit a 3-pointer and a driving finger roll to eliminate a five-point deficit for the Thunder in the final 3 minutes of regulation and tie the game at 88.
Bryant answered at the other end with a turnaround jumper over Sefolosha, but the Thunder got a chance to tie the game after Etan Thomas -- playing instead of starting center Nenad Krstic -- swatted Odom's floater with 1 minute to play.
Green's 12-foot jumper from the left wing tied it with 49.9 seconds left, and Bryant couldn't connect on a desperation 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to give Los Angeles a lead. Sefolosha tipped the ball away from Bryant, and he had to scramble to regain possession before shooting.
Durant then aired out the first of his two potential game-winners.
"We got stops. That's what it boiled down to -- getting stops," Bryant said.
Los Angeles opened the game on a 9-0 run, punctuated by Bynum's two-handed jam off an alley-oop lob from Bryant. The lead reached 28-15 after Bryant finished a spurt of six straight points with a 3-pointer from the right wing over Durant.
Durant scored 10 straight points in a stretch bridging the first two quarters, and his two free throws put Oklahoma City ahead for the first time at 41-40. The teams traded 8-0 runs just before halftime to set up a closely-contested third quarter in which they traded the lead 13 times.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Gasol had a "pretty good workout" before the game but the team still had no additional information to suggest he has a tear in his right hamstring. The team has described the injury as a strain. ... Jackson was asked before the game if he had a fondness for Oklahoma's wide open spaces since he formerly lived in North Dakota, near the Montana border. "Not really fond. There's some sunsets and sunrises that are pretty nice. The wind is aggravating if you live out here, there's no doubt about it."
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- Gary Zielinski