From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant is often at his most dangerous when he's fighting the flu, and the ailing superstar carried the Los Angeles Lakers to the brink of yet another under-the-weather win.One dramatic shot by George Hill left the Indiana Pacers feeling a whole lot healthier.Hill's high-arching shot banked in over Dwight Howard with 0.1 seconds left, and the Pacers withstood Bryant's 40-point performance and the Lakers' last-minute rally for a 79-77 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday night.Hill scored 19 points for the Pacers, who benefited enormously from the Lakers' 23-for-43 performance at the free throw line. Indiana led for most of the night, but couldn't put it away until Hill took charge on a pick-and-roll play with David West, dribbling past Pau Gasol and delicately lofting the ball over the shot-blocking Howard."It's something you always dream about, to hit game-winners," Hill said. "So to do that and help this team win a game just makes it that much better."Coughing and wheezing on the court and in the locker room, Bryant still hit a tying 3-pointer with 24.5 seconds left and produced the 114th 40-point game of his career."It was just a tough game for us, because we didn't make shots," Bryant said. "On top of that, we didn't make free throws. I've got to minimize my mistakes. Ten turnovers is way too many for me, so I have to work on perfecting that and bringing that down. I just felt like I played to the crowd too much."The Lakers dropped to 2-3 under new coach Mike D'Antoni. They mostly played the way Bryant felt, flirting with the lowest-scoring game and worst shooting percentage in franchise history before finishing with 31.6 percent shooting and surpassing the club low of 70 points in a game with eight consecutive points in the waning minutes.Los Angeles tied it at 74 on Howard's dunk with 1:56 to play. After West made one free throw, Howard and Metta World Peace combined to miss four straight free throws. After Hill made a running shot, Bryant hit a 3-pointer in front of the Lakers' bench to tie it -- but Hill dribbled down the clock and won it for Indiana."I'm a little bit proud of the guys, the way they fought and had a chance to win, which defies statistical logic," D'Antoni said. "That was not nice. That was tough."The Pacers' sturdy defense stifled the Lakers' up-tempo offense for most of the night, turning the game into an ugly grind before the thrilling finish. Indiana won its third straight road game over the Lakers after losing its first 11 regular-season meetings after Staples Center opened in 1999.West scored 16 points and Paul George had 12 in the opener of a four-game road trip for the Pacers, who had lost six of eight away from home to start the season."We need road wins to build our togetherness, our belief in ourselves and our new identity, and to build confidence," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "This is a big one, and one that we were looking for."Before outscoring the rest of his team combined, Bryant missed the Lakers' morning shootaround when he fell ill. He spent the day in bed, drinking fluids and listening to Bob Marley, before giving another high-scoring performance, albeit with 10 turnovers and 12-for-28 shooting.Howard blocked four shots and scored 17 points despite 3-of-12 shooting at the free throw line."It shouldn't have got to that point," Howard said. "It's been a tough stretch for us early in the season. We can't lose our faith. We'll find a rhythm and we'll get in a groove, but we can't let what we're going through get us down right now."The Lakers returned from a three-game trip for a three-game homestand, their final multigame stretch at home before Christmas. After playing six games in a nine-day stretch earlier this month, the Lakers are clearly running near empty -- and they had little to give in the first half against Indiana.The Pacers jumped to an early lead and hung onto it despite falling into a 1-for-23 shooting slump in the first half, playing more than 12 minutes with just one field goal. The Lakers couldn't take advantage, missing 14 of their 18 shots in the second quarter and repeatedly failing to move the ball at D'Antoni's preferred pace.Bryant made five of his first six shots, but fell into a 1-for-10 slump before getting rolling again late in the third quarter while Los Angeles made a 13-2 run. Bryant had nine turnovers in the first three quarters, but also had 29 points -- more than his teammates' combined 28.NOTES:The Pacers stay in California to face Sacramento and Golden State before stopping in Chicago on the way home from their trip. ... The Lakers handed out bobblehead dolls in the likeness of the late Chick Hearn, their beloved broadcaster who would have turned 96 on Tuesday. ... Ashton Kutcher, David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Kaley Cuoco, Gene Simmons, Shannon Tweed and Tenacious D band members Jack Black and Kyle Gass watched from courtside.
If there is such a thing as being “due” in sports (and there actually isn’t, so you can probably stop reading now), the San Francisco 49ers had Sunday coming to them.
After all, the anomaly of being the “best winless team in football” based on margin of defeat lasts only so long until the “winless” part trumps the “best” part, because even the Los Angeles Chargers – the previous “best bad team in football” – aren’t the Chargers all the time.
So it was that the Dallas Cowboys exposed every weakness the 49ers have with the simplest thing there is.
The Cowboys did everything they wanted, but only whenever they wanted it, in a 40-10 dope-slapping that could actually have been worse than it was. The 49er offense was properly stymied (again), gaining only 290 yards (4.5 yards per play) and the defense was thoroughly Elliotted (as in Ezekiel-ed, who averaged 8.1 yards in his 27 touches). San Francisco’s warts were rubbed until they glowed, and if not for the fact that head coach Kyle Shanahan already knew where they were, he’d have been shocked to see how visible they were.
And therein lies the takeaway from another day at Not-So-Great-America. It turns out that the 49ers weren’t very good at much of anything before Sunday except just how far away they are from what Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believe is their destiny. C.J. Beathard remained the rookie quarterback he is, and Carlos Hyde's hard-won 68 rushing yards led to no scores. Indeed, San Francisco's only touchdown came on a four-yard improv sprint from Beathard, who is by no means a running quarterback except in abject flight.
Next week in Philadelphia figures to be no less grisly, if you’re waiting for that magic moment when “0” becomes “1.” That is, of course, unless Washington exposes the Eagles as less than what they seem, which is very often the case in the new parity-gripped NFL.
But there are subsequent get-well games at home against Arizona and then at New York against the Giants the week after, so whatever dreams you might have about them running the table backwards and getting the first overall pick in the draft are still light years from realization.
This is, however, another healthy reminder that the job to be done is at least two more years in the undoing before the doing can actually begin. Not that the players or coaches needed another lesson, mind you – they know.
But maybe you needed it, just to keep your delusions in check. Maybe the people who were “due” were all of you.
But that’s unfair, too. You didn’t undo this franchise. All you did was believe, and there’s nothing wrong with that – as long you know there will be more days like this before your team starts handing out the 40-10’s.
In the meantime, there is beer.
SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 40-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7 on Sunday:
1. A major step backward
So much for the 49ers’ somewhat-impressive streak of close losses.
There was nothing encouraging about what transpired in the 49ers' worst loss at Levi’s Stadium. It was also the franchise's worst home loss since Mike Singletary's team absorbed a 45-10 thumping against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 11, 2009.
Was there anything positive to take from this game?
“No, not right now,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It was disappointing. I think all three phases, players and coaches, we’ve got to play better than that, a lot better to give ourselves a chance to win.”
The competitive nature of the 49ers’ past five games was one thing. But with a big home loss on such an emotional day, it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for Shanahan and general manager John Lynch. The 49ers looked like a team devoid of any leadership, and brings more scrutiny onto the organization’s decision last week to release linebacker NaVorro Bowman.
Now, the 49ers face a crossroads. With another cross-country trip ahead, the 49ers have to regroup in a hurry in order to avoid another embarrassing blowout against the Philadelphia Eagles.
2. Beathard’s first start
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard certainly was not the reason the 49ers got blown out. In his first NFL start, he showed a lot of toughness, which was to be expected. He was sacked five times. But most of those sacks could have been avoided. He has to get rid of the ball quicker, especially on three-step drops.
Beathard also showed some promise, too. He let the ball fly deep for Marquise Goodwin, who caught four passes for 80 yards. Beathard completed 22 of 38 passes for 235 yards.
Beathard accounted for the 49ers’ only touchdown with a 4-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. There seems to be little doubt it was in the best interest of the organization to begin evaluating what it has for the future with the permanent switch from Brian Hoyer to Beathard.
3. Dwight Clark’s Day
The 49ers, of course, did nothing to evoke any memories of the great teams on which Dwight Clark played. Well, they did look a lot like Clark’s first team with the 49ers.
The 49ers of 1979 lost their first seven games of the season. This year’s team matched that start for the worst beginning to a season in franchise history.
More than 35 of Clark’s teammates off the 1981 Super Bowl team were in attendance to honor a pay tribute to Clark, who is battling ALS. Now in a wheelchair and considerably lighter, Clark delivered some poignant remarks at halftime.
Clark, 60, told his old teammate, Keena Turner, who works as vice president of football affairs, that all he wanted was to see some of his old teammates.
“And the 49ers heard that and flew all these players in, so I could see them one more time,” Clark said.