99 - 95 Final
  for this game

Bryant, Lakers hold off Nets in fourth quarter

Dec 23, 2006 - 6:00 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers dodged a bullet.

Despite feeling ill and shooting poorly, Bryant had 21 points and 11 assists and Brian Cook collected 11 points and 11 rebounds as the Lakers staved off a frantic fourth-quarter run by the New Jersey Nets to post a 99-95 victory.

Bryant was nearly left out of the starting lineup due to flu-like symptoms and clearly was not at full strength. He went long stretches without playing aggressively on offense and deferred to his teammates, who picked up the slack.

"It was a struggle," Bryant said. "I have been trying to fight it off and it has caught up to me. I didn't move around much all day. Before the game, I just laid down and didn't doing anything."

"I think he played OK," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He was frustrated with the some of the things that were going on out there. His energy wasn't exactly as good as he could have had. You could tell he was tired and he was a little disconcerted by that."

Smush Parker scored 13 points for Los Angeles, which shot 48 percent (34-of-71) from the field and 12-of-24 from the arc, but nearly imploded in the game's final minutes.

After the Nets forged an 83-83 tie on a 3-pointer by rookie Marcus Williams with 8:49 remaining, the Lakers scored 13 of the next 15 points. Bryant, who was held scoreless in the third quarter, scored eight points during the spurt and buried two free throws to give Los Angeles a 98-85 cushion with 2:57 left.

But Mikki Moore answered with a three-point play to spark a 10-0 run by the Nets. Richard Jefferson followed with consecutive baskets - his only points of the second half - and Jason Kidd tied it with a wide-open 3-pointer with 38 seconds to go.

"We felt good about how we played. We did a good job, we just lost momentum a little bit at the end by isolating and giving the ball to Kobe," Jackson said.

After Bryant missed a shot from the arc, New Jersey called a timeout with 14 seconds remaining. Off the ensuing in-bounds play, Vince Carter came off a double-screen and missed a 3-pointer from the top of key.

"We were just playing uphill," Nets point guard Jason Kidd said. "We were playing against the clock. We got stops and at the end we had some good looks with Vince. It looked good, but unfortunately he didn't make it."

Bryant grabbed the rebound and made 1-of-2 free throws to seal it for the Lakers, who managed only one point in the final 2:56.

Bryant was just 4-of-13 from the field but shot 11-of-12 from the line. He also struggled defensively, picking up three fouls in the third quarter.

"It's the way that they play," he said. "This is one of those teams that's absolutely bent on me not scoring. They throw everything at me but the kitchen sink."

Carter took advantage of Bryant's foul trouble, scoring 33 points on 13-of-30 shooting. But he shot just 1-of-8 on 3-pointers and struggled in the fourth quarter as he was guarded by Maurice Evans.

"I think that it's to our advantage when I can guard players that are athletic and the same size," Evans said. "We rely a lot on Kobe on the offensive end and it gives him a chance to rest."

Evans also scored 12 points and led a strong effort by the Lakers' reserves, who scored 42 points on 15-of-29 shooting and made five 3-pointers. Rookie Jordan Farmer and Andrew Bynum each added 10 points off the bench.

Kidd collected 16 points, nine assists and five rebounds and Jefferson finished with 18 points for the Nets, who shot just 42 percent (35-of-84) from the floor and 5-of-19 from 3-point range.

"We just missed shots," Carter said. "We had good looks, but we just couldn't put any in the basket. The only good thing about it was that we were able to keep our poise and keep fighting.

New Jersey was dealt a blow midway through the third quarter when center Nenad Krstic suffered a left knee injury while making a spin move in the post. He collapsed and clutched the knee before being helped off the court.

Krstic did not return to the bench and left the arena on crutches.

"From the naked eye, it doesn't look good," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "That's why they have doctors. He is such a good kid, forget the fact that he is a really good player. Your heart goes out to him. When he goes through the proper procedures, we will know."

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