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Kobe scores 43, leads Lakers past Bucks

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant got the Los Angeles Lakers off to
a fast start with his marksmanship behind the 3-point arc. He won
it for them at the free throw line.

Bryant scored 43 points, including six foul shots in the final
20 seconds, and the Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 101-96 Friday
night to record their first three-game winning streak in more than
two months.

Bryant hadn't been going to the line much lately, averaging
fewer than six attempts over his previous eight games. He was a
perfect 14-for-14 against the Bucks, who allowed Seattle to go
41-for-51 from the line in Wednesday's loss to the SuperSonics.

"It feels good to be able to get back to the free throw line
and have confidence that when I attack the basket, the other team
isn't just going to have liberty to hit me and get away with it,"
Bryant said. "I'll be able to get to the free throw line and get
some easy points for our team.

"It makes our lives a lot easier when you get to the free throw
line and not have to go through our sets and execute our offense
all the time."

Five of Bryant's first six baskets were 3-pointers, helping the
Lakers open up 13-point lead after one quarter. The NBA's leading
scorer was only 5-for-23 from behind the arc over the previous five
games, and 12-for-49 during an eight-game stretch.

"Kobe had a terrific game," Bucks coach Terry Stotts said.
"We probably did a good job on him, actually -- after the way he
started off. He made his foul shots down the stretch, but for 2 1-2
quarters, we did as good a job as you could ask for."

Kwame Brown, coming off his best game of the season, had 16
points and nine rebounds after getting 21 points and 12 boards in
Wednesday's 87-80 win over Sacramento.

"When you have an elite scorer like Kobe Bryant, it makes it
easier for guys like me," Brown said.

Brown grabbed two critical offensive rebounds in the final
minute to help put Milwaukee away. He also turned in the game's
most spectacular play with 2:38 left in the first half, reaching
back as far as he could for Lamar Odom's alley-oop pass and
slamming it home to give Los Angeles a 51-45 lead.

"That was a great move," said Odom, who matched Brown's point
and rebound totals. "He's real athletic, so you can just throw the
ball by the rim and he'll go up and finish it. We're trying to find
him. He's real aggressive underneath the basket. He's protecting
our paint, and we love the job that he's doing."

Michael Redd had 20 points for the Bucks, who had six players in
double figures. But point guard T.J. Ford spent his 23rd birthday
on the inactive list because of a strained left quad, which
occurred in the second half of Wednesday's 114-105 loss at Seattle.
He has missed only seven games this season, after sitting out all
of last season because of a bruised spinal cord.

Ford's injury forced the Bucks to use their 10th different
starting lineup. Charlie Bell started for the second time in 53 NBA
games and missed his first five shots before finishing with 15
points on 5-for-14 shooting. He also had the unenviable task of
guarding Bryant, who came in with a league-leading 34.7 scoring
average.

The Bucks have lost 10 consecutive games against the Lakers, and
19 of the last 21 meetings. That stretch began with a 106-98 loss
at the Forum, when Del Harris was in his first season as Lakers
coach.

Bobby Simmons' 20-footer capped a 13-5 run that trimmed
Milwaukee's 10-point deficit to 88-86 with 6 minutes to play, but
that was as close as they got. The Lakers went 7 minutes and 33
seconds without a field goal before Smush Parker's breakaway dunk
off his steal of Redd gave the Lakers a 95-90 lead with 47 seconds
remaining.

"They made that little run and the end, and we had to make some
big plays," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "The biggest plays
were defensive -- although Kwame got an offensive rebound that
really changed the complexion of the game and forced them to
foul."

Odom drained a pair of 3-pointers 48 seconds apart, capping a
15-0 run that turned an eight-point Lakers deficit into a 75-68
lead with 2:54 left in the third quarter. His best individual
effort came with 8:20 left in the game, ignoring Bryant's pleas for
the ball and driving the lane on Joe Smith from the top of the
3-point arc for an off-balance finger roll that gave Los Angeles an
88-80 lead.

Game notes
Among the crowd of 18,745 was Caron Butler, whom the Lakers
traded to Washington last August in a four-player deal that brought
Brown to Los Angeles. Butler and the Wizards are in town for
Saturday's matinee against the Clippers. ... Milwaukee's loss
mathematically assured the Bucks of finishing with a losing record
on the road for the 19th time in 20 seasons. Their only winning
record during that stretch was in 2000-01 (21-20).