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.
ALAMEDA -- Marquel Lee’s NFL draft weekend wasn’t always fun, a byproduct of high hopes unrealized. The former Wake Forest linebacker slid into Saturday and waited well into the fifth round before his phone lifted spirits.
A 510 area code brought Lee out of an emotional rut, one so deep he started wondering whether he’d get drafted at all.
“When I got the call from the Raiders, everything changed,” Lee said in the latest episode of NBC Sports California’s Raiders Insider Podcast. “I was so excited to play for this organization.”
Marquel Lee wasn’t the only one. His father jumped over the moon.
“He might’ve been more excited than I was,” Marquel Lee said. “He started bawling. I’ve never seen my dad cry like that.”
Corey Lee’s tears don’t come easy. He’s a no-nonsense military man who served 11 years in the Navy before entering the private sector. He was a strict but fair father and football coach who instilled the discipline and work ethic required for his son to realize great potential.
Corey Lee is also a lifelong Raiders fan. Seeing his son get drafted by his favorite team created a perfect emotional storm.
“I’m as die-hard as they get,” Corey Lee said. “When they called his name in the fifth round, it was such a great, powerful moment. There was some relief, because he worked so hard and sacrificed to reach this point. When families were on vacation, we were in summer camps and working out hard.
“Everything we did was to prepare him for the next level. I was so proud to see him achieve a goal he had.”
Corey Lee didn’t break down completely when Marquel Lee officially became the Raiders’ fifth-round selection. This proud papa let emotion overcome for a beat, and then darted for his bedroom. He returned to the party with a brand new Raiders hat and a No. 89 Amari Cooper shirt from his vast Raiders collection.
Marquel Lee threw on dad’s gear to honor his new team and the golden opportunity to play for a linebacker-starved Raiders team.
That wasn’t Marquel Lee’s first time in silver and black. He rocked a full Raiders uniform at age 2, complete with a helmet, football pants and a Tim Brown jersey.
He donned one again when rookies reported to the Raiders offseason program earlier this month. The full-circle moment wasn’t lost on Marquel, a man proud of his past and excited about an NFL future.
“There’s a picture of me in a Raiders jersey, pants and a helmet on my second birthday,” he said. “I look at it now and think, ‘Wow. It really happened.’ I’m wearing a Raiders uniform for real. My dream is becoming a reality.”
Corey Lee grew up a Raiders fan in Southern California, going to games with his family at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Pardon Marquel for not following in those footsteps. He grew up on the East Coast when Donovan McNabb was a superstar and gravitated toward the Eagles. Ray Lewis performed in Lee’s Maryland backyard and became an athletic role model.
Marquel watched tons of NFL football with his dad, complete games where father and son would talk about strategy and scheme. Marquel would watch game tape with his father at an early age and when Corey Lee deployed with the Navy, his mother Katanya – she, too, understood football -- made sure that practice continued.
Marquel Lee was armed with natural athletic gifts and cultivated knowledge of the game, allowing him play quarterback and middle linebacker as a junior at Westlake High in Waldorf, Md. His dad was a guiding light as youth instructor, a JV head coach and a varsity linebackers coach, but took steps to separate family and football.
“As a father, I never would allow him to call me dad on a practice field or anywhere,” Corey Lee said. “I was always ‘Coach’ during the season, whether we were at home or at practice, because I wanted to keep him in that mindset.”
Football was the Lees’ primary focus back then, when the family often traded skills camps for summer vacations. Despite buzz around Marquel’s talents, Corey was against his son doing interviews with recruiting websites or ranking services. Father wanted his son’s head on straight.
Top schools were slow to come around, but gravitated after Marquel fully recovered from a torn patella and stood out early in his senior year. He chose Wake Forest, a commitment his father wanted upheld even with late interest from other programs.
His growth continued as a collegian, and took a real spike during the 2016 season. Wake Forest’s defensive leaders graduated, leaving him to assume a leadership role and put team over stats. Lee considered his junior season at Wake Forest subpar.
“I was pressing a lot, trying to rush my time and trying to get to the NFL,” Lee said. “I was on a road where I thought I wanted to leave (school) early. I was so hard on myself, especially if I didn’t produce. That’s why I said it was subpar. I don’t think I played like a team player that year.
“(The next season) I made a decision to finish what I started and be the leader I always knew I could be. I wanted to help my team get to a bowl game. I hadn’t played in one. That was a major part of me coming back in 2016. … I grew up a lot. I feel like I gained respect as a team leader, and really understood what it took to own that responsibility.”
Lee might have major responsibilities as an NFL rookie. The Raiders don’t have quality options at middle linebacker, and Lee will be allowed to compete for a starting spot. It’ll take an excellent spring and summer to earn it and give the Raiders confidence to hand an important starting spot to a rookie. The Silver and Black could add a veteran to that position group, though they have high hopes for their fifth-round pick.
“We definitely think he has the potential to start,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in an interview with 95.7-The Game. “He’s a long ways away from that. We haven’t even begun to get the pads on, so a lot will be determined in training camp and the preseason. So far, he has looked very good.”
Lee considers himself well prepared for the challenges ahead, and believes he can compete at the professional level.
“I’ve been getting ready for this a long time,” Marquel Lee said. “My dad has been telling me that this experience will be different. It’s not like college anymore. It’s a job, and I have to be mentally prepared for everything I’m about to do. I’m here and I’m learning and I’m trying to do my best.”
On Thursday night, the Cavs beat the Celtics 135-102 to punch a ticket to their third straight NBA Finals.
LeBron James racked up 35 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals in 35 minutes.
After the win, he was asked about the challenge of facing the Warriors.
"I'm gonna be honest -- I'm not in the right mind to even talk about Golden State," LeBron told reporters. "It's too stressful and I'm not stressed right now. I'm very happy about our accomplishment ... they've been the best team in our league the last three years and then they added an MVP.
"That's all I can get you right now because I'm happy and I don't want to be stressed."
On Christmas Day, the Cavs erased a 14-point fourth quarter deficit and Kyrie Irving hit the game-winner with 3.4 seconds remaining.
On MLK Day, Golden State jumped on the Cavs early -- leading 37-22 at the end of the first quarter and 78-49 at the half -- en route to a 126-91 victory.
For the first time in NBA history, the same two teams are facing off in the Finals for the third straight year.
Cleveland boasts a postsesaon record of 12-1.
Golden State is the only team ever to enter the Finals with a record of 12-0.
"They cause a lot of stress," LeBron added. "And I'll get to that point when we start to prepare for them."
Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders and a Web Producer at NBC Sports Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller