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Kobe's string of 45-point games equals Wilt's '64 streak

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant accomplished something Michael
Jordan never did.

Or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Or Larry Bird.

Or anyone else in more than 41 years.

Bryant scored 45 points, making him the first player to score at
least that many in four consecutive games since November 1964, and
the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Indiana Pacers 96-90 Monday night
for their third straight victory.

The last player to score at least 45 or more points in four
consecutive games was Wilt Chamberlain, according to the Elias
Sports Bureau.

"I am just blessed. I have just been blessed to be able to play
this game. I am just very fortunate," Bryant said.

Regarding his accomplishments, Bryant said: "I try not to think
about it too much. I just try to stay in the moment as much as
possible. With that being said, I still appreciate greatness and
feel very blessed, very fortunate, of what's going on. I am very
lucky."

Bryant scored 45 points on Dec. 28 against Memphis, 48 last
Friday night against Philadelphia, and 50 on Saturday night against
the Clippers.

He sat out games against Utah on Jan. 1-3 after being suspended
for two games for elbowing Mike Miller in the Memphis game -- a
flagrant foul.

"I think that it's remarkable," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said
of Bryant's latest accomplishment.

Jackson was the coach in Chicago when Jordan led the Bulls to
six championships in the 1990s.

"Hey, the guy's at the top of his game," Pacers coach Rick
Carlisle said when asked about Bryant. "We're witnessing true
greatness. It's a rare opportunity to see a guy perform at this
level."

Bryant scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, reaching 45 by
making two free throws with 9.6 seconds left. He also had 10
rebounds and five assists. He had become the first player with at
least 45 in three straight games since Jordan accomplished the feat
in 1990.

"Right now, he's got it cookin'," said teammate Lamar Odom,
who had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

"He's a rare one. You take your hat off to a guy like that,"
said Jermaine O'Neal, who led the Pacers with 24 points and 16
rebounds but scored only two points in the fourth quarter, when he
missed all four of his attempts from the foul line.

"I'm so disappointed right now," he said. "We were there
until I coughed the game up. At the end of the game, I felt like I
let the team down. There is no excuse."

O'Neal had missed three games because of illness before
returning Sunday night in Sacramento, when he had 12 points and
eight rebounds in just 22 minutes of a 108-83 Indiana victory. He
played 44½ minutes against the Lakers.

Kwame Brown added nine points and nine rebounds for the Lakers
(18-16).

Anthony Johnson scored 14 points and rookie Danny Granger had 12
points and nine rebounds for the Pacers (18-14). Indiana's Stephen
Jackson, who scored a season-high 31 points in Sacramento, was
limited to 25 minutes because of foul problems and scored only
eight.

Bryant made a basket with 1:46 remaining to snap an 85-all tie
and put the Lakers ahead for good. O'Neal missed two free throws 12
seconds later, and Odom made a 3-pointer with 1:20 left to give the
Lakers a five-point lead.

Bryant's last two points made it 95-90 and clinched the victory.
Bryant shot 14-of-32 from the field including 2-of-6 from 3-point
range and 15-of-21 from the foul line.

The Lakers scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter
to go ahead 72-65. But the Pacers responded by going on a 12-4 run
for a 77-76 lead. Neither team led by more than four points after
that until Odom's big 3-pointer.

O'Neal scored six points during a 13-3 run that gave Indiana a
60-57 lead. The Pacers led 65-64 entering the fourth quarter.

Neither team led by more than four points in the second period,
which ended with the Lakers on top 47-45. Bryant had 20 points at
that stage.

Jackson began the game guarding Bryant, but went to the bench
with two fouls just 3½ minutes into the game and didn't return
until the second quarter.

David Harrison and O'Neal each scored five points as the Pacers
jumped out to a 14-8 lead. Bryant scored 11 points in the last 5:45
of the opening period to spark a 16-8 run that put the Lakers ahead
24-22.

Game notes
Indiana played without G Jamaal Tinsley, who missed his
sixth game with a torn biceps muscle, and F Austin Croshere,
sidelined due to the mild concussion he sustained Sunday night at
Sacramento. ... Jackson picked up a technical foul in the second
quarter, and Bryant got one in the third period. ... Lakers rookie
Andrew Bynum played the final 4:11 of the second quarter and scored
six points to match his career high. ... Former Pacers star Reggie
Miller watched the game from a courtside seat near the Lakers'
bench. ... The teams combined to shoot 73 free throws -- 42 by the
Pacers. ... The Lakers outrebounded the Pacers 53-46.