for this game

Bryant outplays Arenas as Lakers defeat Wizards

Feb 4, 2007 - 5:18 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- In a highly entertaining reprise of a showdown of MVP candidates, Kobe Bryant got the better of Gilbert Arenas this time.

Bryant scored 39 points and used his teammates more effectively as the Los Angeles Lakers continued their road trip with a 118-102 victory over Arenas and the Washington Wizards.

Arenas scored 37 points but made just 9-of-29 shots as he was upstaged on his home floor by Bryant, who showed a bit more of a conscience in helping the Lakers improve to 2-2 on their eight-game trek.

"At this point in my career, (a showdown is) not something that really excites me," said Bryant, who made 14-of-26 shots. "What's exciting is coming into this building after we dropped a game against Indiana last night and coming in here and us playing well and getting that win and seeing everybody excited and smiling. That's what's more fun."

On December 17, Arenas scored a franchise-record 60 points to overcome 45 by Bryant and give the Wizards a 147-141 overtime win.

Afterward, Bryant - who scored 81 points in a game just over a year ago - downplayed the eruption, saying Arenas had "no conscience." He had nicer words this time around.

"From when he first came into the league and played at Golden State and some of the things that he could do to watching him play now, he improved drastically," Bryant said. "You can only do that by putting the work forward. I think he's a great example for a lot of players who aspire to be in the NBA. He's put in the work and it's paid off."

The two All-Stars appeared intent on dueling as each scored 20 points in the first half, which often looked like a 1-on-1 full-court game with eight players watching.

"I told Kobe at halftime not to make this a personal duel with Gilbert," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "But sometimes it's unavoidable. He said the basket kept getting bigger and bigger in the first half, and at the particular level he felt like he could get 40 points in the first half. But he held back.

"I told Phil that if I was making it an individual thing, how I felt those few minutes, I probably would've had 30 at half because the basket just felt really, really huge and I felt in a really good rhythm," Bryant said. "But I realized what we're trying to do as a basketball club, so I just stepped back a little bit and tried to bring us along."

In the second quarter, Bryant missed a dunk and heard some hoots and hollers but quickly quieted the crowd with a breakaway 360 slam on the next possession.

The Lakers held a 54-50 halftime lead and took control in the third quarter, when Bryant started to get his teammates more involved while Arenas continued to fire away.

"I was here all last night shooting, getting ready for the game," Arenas said. "I have to stop doing that serious thing before a game. I have to be my goofy self. Tonight I was too serious, and that is why I struggled early."

Los Angeles took an 86-76 lead into the final period and led by at least nine points thereafter. Two 3-pointers by Lamar Odom and a jumper by Bryant built the margin to 96-82 with 8:31 to go.

"What I try to do is carry the game when I'm feeling it, for a couple of minutes here and there, to buy some time and then bring us along," Bryant said.

Midway through the period, Arenas made a long 3-pointer while drawing a foul from Bryant, who could only say "Wow!" as his counterpart completed a four-point play that made it 102-90.

"When he gets good looks, he's going to stroke them," Bryant said. "Most nights he's making them. I think tonight we did a good job contesting them. He hit some tough shots. Some nights they're going to go down and some nights they're not."

Although Arenas heard chants of "MVP" from the fans at the Verizon Center, Bryant thumped his chest and raised his finger in triumph as the buzzer sounded.

"I don't downplay anybody's game," Arenas said. "He's the best player in the league and he shows it day in and day out, year after year. So you can't talk bad about a player like him. You can't lash out at a player like him. He has three rings. He's been carrying this team for two years. No. 1 player in the league."

Smush Parker scored 20 points and Odom added 19 and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who shot 52 percent (42-of-81) and had all five starters in double figures. Teenage center Andrew Bynum had 12 points and 13 boards.

DeShawn Stevenson scored 17 points and All-Star Caron Butler added 15 and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who shot just 36 percent (33-of-91).

Despite having a pair of All-Stars, the Wizards clearly miss forward Antawn Jamison, who is out three to six weeks with a knee sprain. They have lost their first two games without him and need someone else to pick up the scoring slack.

"There is less of a comfort level," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "We have to trust and give people chances that are stepping in to do well in the system. We haven't shown that yet."

The Wizards hope one of the players helping compensate for Jamison's absence can be forward Darius Songaila, who played for the first time this season and had two points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.

"Guys have to step up and fill that role," Arenas said. "By the time Darius gets healthy, Antawn will be back and we will have a full roster."

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