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Bryant's fourth-quarter spurt gives Lakers win

Jan 13, 2007 - 7:59 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard solved his miseries against the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Orlando Magic had no answer for Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, battling an injured groin, scored 23 second-half points, including 16 in the final seven minutes, to lead the Lakers to a 109-106 victory over the Magic, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.

Smush Parker scored a career-high 26 points and made two late steals for Los Angeles, which snapped a two-game losing streak in winning for the 15th time in the 17 games against Orlando, including eight straight at Staples Center. The Magic's last win here was in 1996.

"We need Kobe to step up for us late in the game and take it over," Parker said. "He has the ability to do that any time he wants. He put on a cape tonight and carried us to another victory."

"It was good to get back in the winning column," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "I was concerned about this game, about our energy coming back home and being able to play. We had a good start, Smush got off to a good start we looked like we were going to be OK.

Bryant, who suffered a strained groin in the second quarter of Wednesday's 102-77 loss to Houston, was unstoppable down the stretch in a game where neither team could pull away.

"(The groin) felt fine. I felt 98 percent, felt good, wasn't thinking about it at all," Bryant said. "We just wanted to get back to ball movement. I kind of took the lead and made sure we executed properly. Then in the fourth quarter we were able to space things out and get some pretty good looks."

Bryant stuck a jumper from the right wing in the face of Grant Hill for a 105-103 lead with 1:40 left.

"We had the floor spaced because everyone had shot the ball so well in the first three quarters," Bryant said. "So in the fourth quarter I caught the ball in isolation situations and no double team was coming. I could operate I could raise up and shoot my jumpshots."

Howard countered with a power move inside 19 seconds later, but Bryant then hit another tough shot, a fallaway jumper off the dribble from the right wing over Hill for a 107-105 lead with 66 seconds left.

"Well you know that he's going to try and take over the game in that situation," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "We tried to be up on him. We tried to help Grant as much as possible. He made shots over people."

Howard, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds after averaging just nine and eight in five previous games against the Lakers, then missed two free throws 25 seconds later.

Bryant got fouled on the ensuing possession and nailed two free throws for a four-point bulge with 20 ticks to play.

Orlando made one last grasp. Howard made the first of two free throws with 16 seconds left to cut the deficit to 109-106, but after Hill rebounded his second shot, Parker stole the ball and was fouled with nine seconds remaining. He missed two free throws and Jameer Nelson dribbled upcourt but missed a straightaway 3-pointer as time expired.

"If Howard had hit those free throws late in the game it is a different ballgame," Parker said. "I got those steals and that definitely helped."

Bryant shot 9-of-15 from the floor and added eight rebounds and seven steals.

Parker, who scored 11 points in the third quarter, topped his previous high by two points and tied a career high with five 3-pointers. He has scored 10-plus points in 17 of his last 19 games.

"My teammates did a great job of finding me when I was open and I got off some good jumpshots," Parker said.

Howard converted 9-of-14 shots but he missed 9-of-16 free throws and committed five turnovers.

"We tried to do our best to get the ball in the paint and score but we couldn't stop them from scoring like we needed to," Howard said. "Our effort wasn't there. There were a lot of loose rebounds and balls we didn't get like we needed to."

The Lakers shot 49 percent (38-of-77), held a 41-38 advantage on the boards and committed just nine turnovers.

Hill scored 20 points and Hedu Turkoglu added 18 for Orlando, which shot 51 percent (38-of-75) but made just 25-of-39 free throws.

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