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Bryant takes over in fourth as Lakers top Hawks

Feb 6, 2007 - 5:35 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Superstar Kobe Bryant showed Joe Johnson why he is one of the best players in the game.

Battling Johnson on both ends of the court, Bryant scored 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and Lamar Odom added 15 and 18 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers rode their star to a 90-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

Two days after a scoring duel with Washington's Gilbert Arenas, Bryant went head-to-head with Johnson, who is ninth in the league at 25.7 points per game. Johnson scored 27 points on 10-of-26 shooting.

"(Johnson) just made shots as well," Bryant said. "I'm sure it's entertaining for the crowd. He's a great player. He's a (heck) of a basketball player."

Bryant admitted he enjoyed the competition but did not let it consume him.

"It's fun, it's a challenge for me," Bryant said. "For me, it doesn't matter as much at this point in my career. I've played that individual battle. A couple of years ago, I would have tried to score 25 points. Now, once I got on a roll, and they started to double and triple team me, I was able to use myself as a decoy."

It was Bryant who was the difference down the stretch. Using a combination of strong drives and an unguardable fadeaway jumper, Bryant torched the Hawks in the final period.

"It was Kobe and Joe going back at each other, just two All-Stars in my opinion," Atlanta forward Josh Smith said. "Kobe hit some difficult shots, and we let them get an easy basket because we were so focused on that matchup at the end."

During one sequence, the All-Star guard drained a deep 3-pointer and hit a remarkable turnaround jumper on the right baseline to make it 77-71 with 5:10 left.

"You got to give it to Kobe. He's a great player," Johnson said. "He made (a heck) of a shot down the stretch. I was draped all over him."

He then jogged up the court wagging his finger at the decidedly pro-Lakers crowd in Atlanta.

"Swagger. (Wagging the finger) comes from the flair," Bryant said. "Playing in the park, having fun. It felt like the whole building started rooting for us. We wanted to use that to our favor."

Bryant shot 10-of-18 from the floor, including 2-of-5 from the arc.

Odom was just 4-of-17 from the field but made his biggest contribution on the glass, grabbing five offensive rebounds. Andrew Bynum collected 15 points and 10 rebounds for Los Angeles, which shot 43 percent (32-of-75).

"We had a decent second quarter after a lethargic start," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We have a bit of work to do. It's Super Bowl Monday, and they were running like that in the first few minutes. In the second half, we played better."

Josh Smith had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Hawks, who shot just 39 percent (28-of-71) to drop 5-3 in their last eight games.

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