Los Angeles at Houston

Bryant nets 37 as Lakers beat Rockets for third time this season

CBSSports.com wire reports
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HOUSTON -- When Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest weren't grabbing or shoving each other on Wednesday night, they were talking trash that seemed to get more heated by the minute.

In the end, Kobe had the last word.

Bryant scored 18 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers ended Houston's 12-game home winning streak with a 102-96 victory.

Artest, the fiery forward who's one of Houston's top 1-on-1 defenders, used all of his tactics in vain to stop Bryant in the final quarter. He also had a dismal offensive night, scoring only 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting with six turnovers.

While Artest was smiling about the matchup afterward, Bryant still had his game face on.

"It wasn't much of a battle," Bryant said. "I kicked his (butt) tonight. We've had some battles in the past and he's gotten the best of me a few times. Tonight, I got the best of him."

Pau Gasol scored 20 points and Josh Powell added 17 for the Lakers, who overcame the absence of Lamar Odom to snap a three-game road losing streak. Odom, the Lakers' second-leading rebounder, served a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation in Monday's loss to Portland.

Reserve Von Wafer scored 20 points for the Rockets, who've lost all three meetings with the Lakers this season.

The Lakers led 75-72 when Bryant re-entered the game after a rest with 6:57 left. Only seconds later, Artest and Bryant faced off and exchanged words before referee Gary Zielinski quickly stepped in to separate them. Both stars got technical fouls before Wafer sank a 3-pointer to tie it at 76.

"It was edgy," Bryant said. "I would expect nothing less. He's a competitor, I'm a competitor. It's fun."

Artest and Bryant continued to shove each other as Luke Walton hit a jumper to give the Lakers the lead. Later, Bryant stripped the ball from Artest, but then missed a jumper with Artest defending, one of the few minor victories for Artest down the stretch.

Later, Bryant drove inside and converted a three-point play, then swished a 3-pointer after Artest tried to make a steal. That put the Lakers up 85-80 and Bryant held his follow-through and glared at the crowd before trotting down the court.

Aaron Brooks swished a 3-pointer, got fouled by Derek Fisher and hit the free throw before Artest stole the ball from Bryant and Wafer scored again to give the Rockets a brief lead.

But Bryant then drove past Yao Ming for a layup, then hit a tough fadeaway over Artest to put the Lakers up 92-86. After the second basket, Bryant gave a finger-wag toward the Rockets' bench -- seeming to mock Houston center Dikembe Mutombo's signature gesture after a blocked shot.

"That's part of the game," Artest said. "You've got to talk trash to the fans. It's entertaining."

Bryant put away the game when he leaned into Shane Battier and hit an off-balance jumper with 38.5 seconds left. Battier was called for a foul and Bryant hit the free throw for a 95-88 lead.

Bryant and Artest continued to jaw at each other down to the final buzzer, even with the outcome decided.

"We're not friends out there at all," Artest said. "After the game, after the season, this will be something we'll probably talk about at a pickup game or something. Not personal at all."

Yao also struggled, scoring 16, but giving away four of Houston's season-high 23 turnovers. The Lakers often sent double-teams to Yao's blind side, as he made moves to his left. Yao only took three shots in the second half and missed two of them.

"He's big and he couldn't get a rhythm," Bryant said. "If you give him a single look, he'll tear you up."

The Lakers broke a 24-all tie with 10-3 burst in the second quarter. The Rockets, averaging only 14 turnovers per game, coughed up 10 in the first 15 minutes.

Yao went to the bench for a rest with 8:50 left in the first half, and the Rockets mounted a 14-0 run.

Trevor Ariza's jumper with 3:54 left in the half ended the Lakers' five-minute scoring drought. Artest hit a pull-up jumper and Wafer swished a 3-pointer before Yao returned with 2:12 remaining in the half.

Artest drove for a layup, drew contact and converted the three-point play to give the Rockets a 51-40 halftime lead, Houston's biggest to that point.

Bryant had only six points and two turnovers in the first half.

Notes

  • The teams shot a combined 7-for-39 from 3-point range.
  • The Lakers scored 16 points in the second quarter, a season low.
  • Before the game, Lakers coach Phil Jackson called Odom's suspension "unfortunate, but probably warranted."
  • The Rockets went 13-for-15 from the free-throw line after going 20-for-35 (a season-low 57 percent) in Monday's 97-95 win in Denver.
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Kobe flies past Yao Ming and finishes with 37 points as L.A. snaps Houston's home winning streak.  (AP)
Kobe flies past Yao Ming and finishes with 37 points as L.A. snaps Houston's home winning streak. (AP)

Scoreboard
L.A. Lakers (51-13) «24162735102
Houston (42-24) 2427192696
LAL:K. Bryant 37 Pts
LAL:J. Powell 9 Reb
LAL:K. Bryant 6 Ast
HOU:V. Wafer 20 Pts
HOU:L. Scola 9 Reb
HOU:K. Lowry 5 Ast
Players of the Game
HoustonLos Angeles

L. Scola

K. Bryant
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
15913756
Los Angeles
P. Gasol, C439-182-252220
K. Bryant, SG4014-237-1056237
J. Powell, SF358-141-290417
D. Fisher, PG323-92-23228
T. Ariza, SF304-70-06318
L. Walton, SF243-72-45228
S. Vujacic, SG181-40-02022
J. Farmar, PG161-40-00222
D. Mbenga, C40-00-01010
L. Odom, PFDid Not Play
A. Bynum, CDid Not Play
S. Brown, PGDid Not Play
A. Morrison, SFDid Not Play
Y. Sun, SGDid Not Play
Totals 43-8614-20361718102
 50.0%70.0% 
Houston
R. Artest, SF414-163-322511
Y. Ming, C367-92-262116
L. Scola, PF337-91-191315
S. Battier, SF281-52-22254
A. Brooks, PG225-101-114214
V. Wafer, SG289-160-031120
K. Lowry, SG262-52-42536
C. Landry, PF264-62-280210
D. Mutombo, CDid Not Play
B. Barry, SGDid Not Play
T. McGrady, SGDid Not Play
B. Cook, PFDid Not Play
C. Hayes, PFDid Not Play
J. White, SGDid Not Play
J. Dorsey, PFDid Not Play
Totals 39-7613-1533172296
 51.3%86.7% 
Other Games
Utah 93 Final
Atl 100
Chi 79 Final
Orl 107
Tor 106 Final
Phi 115
NO 109 Final
Wash 98
NY 116 Final
Det 111
Bos 99 Final
Mia 107
Mem 79 Final
Min 104
OKC 99 Final
Den 112
Dal 93 Final
Port 89
NJ 112 Final
GS 116