LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Lakers keep winning ugly, but they don't
seem very concerned.
Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 27 points in the last four minutes
Friday night to help the Lakers beat the Clippers 106-100.
The win was the fourth straight and eighth in 10 games for the
Lakers (46-23), who moved a season-high 23 games over .500. They
trail the Pacific Division-leading Sacramento Kings by four games
with 13 left.
But they haven't had an easy win during their recent streak
against non-playoff teams, barely beating Chicago, Orlando and the
"Well, we won. That's about all I can say about the game,"
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We play to the level of
competition I think more often than I'd like to say."
"Tonight was just one of those days where we did not play up to
our level," O'Neal said. "That team over there is always going to
be playing harder to try and beat us."
O'Neal spoke to reporters for the first time on a game day since
March 8, when referee Bob Delaney called two technical fouls on him
in the fourth quarter, calling for automatic ejection, in an 88-83
loss at Utah.
"I'm still angry, but I'll get over it," O'Neal said.
Corey Maggette led the Clippers with 31 points, seven rebounds
and five assists. Elton Brand had 15 points and seven rebounds, and
Matt Barnes scored a career-high 14 points and had seven rebounds.
"There's going to be a time when we get the Lakers," Maggette
said. "Down the stretch they made some good plays and Kobe kind of
The Lakers took the lead for good with 3:15 remaining on a dunk
by Bryant off an assist from Malone, making it 94-92.
Two free throws by Bryant and a dunk by O'Neal extended the
Lakers' lead to six points before a basket by Brand and two free
throws by Bobby Simmons made it 98-96.
But Bryant made a basket with 1:10 to play and two free throws
with 46.6 seconds left to give the Lakers a six-point lead.
"I don't know if we can beat certain teams playing like that,"
Malone said. "The competition will get stiffer and hopefully we
can get to where we want to be."
The Lakers entertain Sacramento and Minnesota next week. The
Kings and Timberwolves rank 1-2 in the Western Conference.
The Clippers lost for the 10th time in 12 games and assured
themselves of an 11th straight losing season.
Clippers guard Quentin Richardson, averaging 17.9 points, was a
late scratch because of back spasms.
"You've got to win, no matter what," Barnes said. "You don't
take moral victories."
A basket by O'Neal to start the fourth quarter gave the Lakers a
10-point lead -- largest in the game for either team.
But the Clippers chipped away, and two free throws by Maggette
and a jumper by Doug Overton tied it at 90 with 4:25 remaining.
It was 74-66 entering the final period. All five Lakers'
starters were in double figures by that time -- the first time
that's happened since Dec. 28.
The Clippers scored the last seven points of the first quarter
to take a 27-20 lead. The Lakers led 52-49 at halftime.
Bryant plans to play Wednesday night against Sacramento
despite pretrial hearings Wednesday and Thursday in Colorado
involving his sexual assault charge. Jackson said Bryant will fly
to Los Angeles after Wednesday's court action and return to the
Eagle County court early the following day. ... Clippers F Chris
Wilcox missed his third game because of a sprained left Achilles
tendon. ... The Lakers won the season series 3-1 and have won 26 of
the last 29 games between the crosstown rivals. ... Lakers F-C
Horace Grant was placed on the injured list with a tear in his hip,
but decided to postpone surgery and will try to play again this
season. Jackson said rookie Brian Cook will be activated before
Sunday's game against Milwaukee. ... A bone scan performed on the
left foot of Clippers G Marko Jaric revealed a stress fracture.
Jaric, placed on the injured list March 12 with an initial
diagnosis of a bone bruise, will be out at least three more weeks.