LOS ANGELES (AP) — A few hours after the Los Angeles Lakers' top brass abruptly fired coach Mike Brown and threw their season into turmoil before mid-November, Brown's former players demonstrated why there's still ample reason to think this team can be saved.
The Lakers should find out soon whether Phil Jackson gets the chance to do the saving — again.
Kobe Bryant scored 27 points, Pau Gasol added 14 points and 16 rebounds, and the Lakers doubled their win total with a 101-77 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
Jordan Hill scored 14 points for the Lakers, who were uniformly stunned by Brown's dismissal after just 18 months on the job. Following a bumpy first half against Golden State under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, they pulled away in the third quarter with a 25-9 run led by Bryant, who also had nine rebounds and seven assists.
"I think everybody didn't know how to react to it emotionally," Bryant said. "Everybody had to just go about their business and play basketball. ... A lot of the emotion that was picked up was kind of unleashed when we played."
The comfortable victory capped one of the most tumultuous days in recent history for a franchise that's never short on drama. With the high-priced veteran club off to a Western Conference-worst 1-4 start following a winless preseason, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Jim Buss abruptly dismissed Brown, informing players during their morning shootaround.
Bickerstaff ran the Lakers as the interim coach, but the veteran NBA bench boss isn't likely to be a candidate for the full-time job. Kupchak is searching for a replacement, possibly making a selection before the Lakers' next game on Sunday against Sacramento.
The Lakers' crowd quickly made its choice known: A chant of "We want Phil!" rose out of the stands while Bryant shot a free throw in the third quarter, and echoed a few more times later in the half.
"I can understand why," Bickerstaff said. "The guy's got the rings."
Jackson, the 11-time NBA champion coach who won five rings in two previous stints running the Lakers, is near the top of Kupchak's list again, the GM acknowledged. Mike D'Antoni, the former Knicks and Suns coach, also is thought to be a prime candidate.
Bryant said he would be thoroughly happy with Jackson, D'Antoni or former Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw in charge. Bryant's injury struggles during Jackson's final season would give him particular motivation for a third stint together.
"I wasn't able to give him my real self because I was playing on one leg," Bryant said. "It's always kind of eaten away at me that in the last year of his career ... I couldn't give him everything I had because I was playing on one knee."
Dwight Howard had six points and eight rebounds while playing just 24 minutes for the Lakers in his ongoing return from offseason back surgery. Steve Nash, the other major addition to the club, watched from behind the bench, missing his fourth straight game with a small fracture in his leg. Nash will be out for at least another week, the Lakers announced after the game.