Saturday, December 06, 2008
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Bryant, Lakers barely beat Wizards 106-104

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[December 06, 2008]  WASHINGTON (AP) -- On a poor shooting night, Kobe Bryant came through when the Los Angeles Lakers needed him the most. And then he nearly blew it about 10 seconds later.

Bryant banked in a running 12-foot jumper over Caron Butler with 25 seconds left Friday night, then went 1-for-2 on foul shots 10 seconds later, but the best-in-the-West Lakers eked out a 106-104 victory over the worst-in-the-East Washington Wizards.

RestaurantAfter Bryant's miss at the line - he made all 13 other free throws he took - Butler had a chance to win it for Washington, but missed a 3-point attempt shortly before the buzzer.

Bryant was 5-for-17 from the field and finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Butler led the Wizards with 26 points.

Treated again to "M-V-P!" chants on the road, Bryant was resting on the sideline for much of the fourth quarter as his team allowed what was once a 20-point lead to dwindle.

And dwindle. And dwindle. With Butler leading the charge.

His jumper with about 4 minutes left capped a 12-0 run that pulled the Wizards within 99-92. Later, Butler assisted on Andray Blatche's dunk that made it 103-98 with just under 2 minutes left. Butler's two free throws got Washington to 103-100 a half-minute later, and his 9-foot pull-up jumper made it a one-point game.

But that's when Bryant responded by sinking his lone field goal of the fourth quarter, then skipping to the Lakers' sideline at the ensuing timeout. Blatche's tip-in got Washington back within a point, and Bryant was immediately fouled.


Bryant had plenty of help. Andrew Bynum delivered a season-high 19 points, along with 10 rebounds, and Pau Gasol had 17 points and 10 rebounds - part of a half-dozen Lakers who scored in double figures.

Blatche had 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Antawn Jamison added 15 points and 12 rebounds.

While the Lakers improved to 16-2, the Wizards fell to 3-14 for the first time since the 1966-67 season, when they were known as the Baltimore Bullets.

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Notes:@ Lakers coach Phil Jackson said four of his players - Bryant, Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Trevor Ariza - have a competition going to see who can accumulate the most steals this season. Jackson isn't necessarily thrilled, noting that Bryant sometimes "comes away empty-handed, which compromises our defense." ... Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott avoided a direct answer to a question about when PG Gilbert Arenas (left knee surgery) might return to action. "He seems to be doing well. He's in each day. We chat. We're getting together," Tapscott said. "When the time is right to write the script for his return, to put together a plan; we're not at that point." ... The Wizards wore throwback jerseys from the 1962-63 Chicago Zephyrs; that was the franchise's last season in that city before moving to Baltimore. Player reviews were mixed. ... Tapscott spoke pregame about how a game's outcome often depends simply on which team has a player who happens to be on a roll that particular day. "I constantly use this mantra: It's not plays that win games, it's players," Tapscott said. "It's not Xs-and-Os, it's Jimmy-and-Joes."

[Associated Press; By HOWARD FENDRICH]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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