LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant wasn't as much of a force in the
first three quarters as he was in the fourth for the Los Angeles
Lakers. The game plan worked perfectly.
Once he was able to get his teammates involved in the scoring
and spread out the floor, Bryant took over and scored 16 of his 28
points in the final 6:44 to lead the Lakers to a 109-106 victory
over Orlando on Friday night.
"If I started doing that in the first quarter, you'd see
doubles coming and zones shifting and all that other stuff. But
that didn't happen in the fourth quarter because everybody was a
threat," Bryant said.
"We had the floor spaced because everybody shot the ball so
well in the first 3½ quarters. So in the fourth quarter, I caught
the ball in isolation situations because no double-team was coming.
And then I was able to operate."
The Lakers beat Orlando for the fifth straight time and 15th in
17 meetings. They barely avoided their first three-game losing
streak of the season with a career-high 26 points from Smush
"We just ran our offense. My teammates did a good job of
finding me when I was open and I was able to knock down some jump
shots," Parker said. "Once I hit my first basket, it carried me
throughout the game both offensively and defensively."
Dwight Howard had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Southeast
Division-leading Magic, but missed nine of 16 free throws. Grant
Hill, playing in his third game after missing the previous three
with a sore left foot, finished with 20 points as Orlando's
five-game winning streak ended.
Bryant reported back in with 7:19 remaining and got the Lakers'
next six points. Parker, who had an 18-point third quarter against
the Magic in the Lakers' 106-93 victory on Dec. 27 at Orlando, put
Los Angeles back in front 97-96 on a driving layup with 4:27 to
The lead changed hands two more times before Darko Milicic's
hook shot tied it at 103-all with 1:53 left. Bryant's 12-footer
from the right baseline gave the Lakers a 107-105 lead they would
"We tried to do our best to get the ball in the paint and
score, but we couldn't stop them from scoring," Howard said.
"Kobe hit some tough shots, and we were missing our free throws."
Howard missed two foul shots and Bryant sank both of his with 20
seconds to go. Howard then made one of two from the line and Parker
missed both free throws at the other end, giving Orlando the ball
with 9.8 seconds left. However, Jameer Nelson's hurried attempt at
a game-tying 3-pointer from above the key hit the front rim as time
Neither team led by more than seven points. Bryant's two free
throws gave the Lakers a 68-61 margin with 6:26 left in the third
quarter. Orlando forward Tony Battie did not attempt a field goal
in his first 22½ minutes on the floor, then made his first three
shots in a 1:52 span -- all within four feet of the basket -- to
narrow the gap to 73-72.
The Magic have lost 10 straight to the Lakers in Los Angeles
since March 17, 1996, when Dennis Scott provided the winning margin
in a 98-97 victory with a shot that tied the NBA single-season
record for 3-point baskets. Scott finished that season with 267, a
mark that stood until Seattle's Ray Allen eclipsed it on April 19,
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said nothing was new considering the
team's attempts to land free agent Chris Webber, whose contract was
bought out by the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. Webber can't
sign with anyone until next Tuesday at the earliest. His agent,
Aaron Goodwin, was not at the game according to a Lakers
"We won't know anything until we actually speak to his agent --
if he ever returns a call," Jackson said. "There's some
qualifications to joining the running in this beauty contest, but I
don't think we're going to push this envelope any farther than we
have to. We're just sitting and watching this drama unfold."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a special assistant coach for the
Lakers and the NBA's career scoring leader, reacted philosophically
when asked about Houston's Dikembe Mutombo passing him for second
place on the all-time blocks list this week. "My first four years
in the league they didn't count blocks," Abdul-Jabbar said. "So I
probably feel like Bill Russell -- that Russell's No. 1."