Final - 2OT
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Bryant scores 53 as Lakers top Rockets in double-overtime

Dec 16, 2006 - 8:15 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- After Yao Ming pumped his fist, Kobe Bryant delivered the knockout punch.

Bryant scored a season-high 53 points as the Los Angeles Lakers erased a 21-point, first-quarter deficit to outlast the Houston Rockets, 112-101, in double-overtime.

It was the second 50-point game of the season and 13th career for Bryant. The superstar scored 52 points in a 132-102 victory over Utah on November 30.

"It felt good for me and it confirmed to me that my legs are back," Bryant said. "(I'm) playing long minutes and still able to get to the basket and explode."

"I don't know if he imposed his will, but he definitely imposed his skill," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I know that. We have a terrific defender in Shane (Battier), and Bryant obviously is very good and they surround him with good quality players who can shoot, so he has a lot of room to work with."

Smush Parker scored 17 points and Brian Cook had 10 and seven rebounds for the Lakers, who beat the Rockets for the second time in three days. Los Angeles posted a 102-94 win at Houston on Tuesday.

"I think it depends on your basketball character (if the tought losses have an effect)," Van Gundy said. "If you have strong basketball character, it's not hard. If you have weak basketball character, you cave in."

Yao hit a fadeaway jumper with 28.7 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game, 89-89. He then pumped his fist in a rare show of emotion when Los Angeles called a timeout. The 7-6 center collected 38 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high eight blocks.

"He's a (heck) of a player. He's really come of age," Bryant said. "There's not too many big guys that can shoot the ball. He can turn both shoulders and get off a good shot. Incredible free-throw shooter and great defensively."

Despite his huge game, Yao was upset that the Lakers' frontcourt players were able to manhandle him.

"I feel it's not fair. I only shot eight free throws and they just let their big guys keep pushing me," Yao said. "Kwame Brown and Andrew Bynum kept fouling. That's not fair. I know I'm big, that's not my fault.

"They let them have a two-hand push on my back. I wish the league can help with this, check the film. It's not just one or two games, it's been a couple of weeks already." However, Bryant was unstoppable, scoring 13 of Los Angeles' 23 points in the overtime sessions. He made 17-of-38 shots from the floor and went 14-of-16 from the free-throw line.

"We just played hard, tightened up our game a little bit," Bryant said. "In the first half, we were loose with the basketball, senseless turnovers. We just had to get our act together."

Bryant also had a chance to win the game at the end of the first overtime with the game tied, 99-99, but missed a fallaway jumper as time expired.

However, the Lakers were suprised even to be in the game after trailing, 53-35, at the half. Houston took its largest lead, 51-30, on Shane Battier's layup with 1:19 remaining in the second quarter.

"After a disappointing first half, we came back and we got some momentum in the third quarter," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "We were able to carry that game out and finish it off."

"We just had to get our act together," Bryant said. "Even though we were down by 20, I felt the game was ours, as funny as that sounds." Rafer Alston had 19 points and 10 assists for the Rockets, who shot 47 percent (44-of-94) from the field.