Final - OT
  for this game

Bryant scores 53, but Lakers fall to Rockets in OT

Mar 31, 2007 - 7:44 AM LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Superstar Kobe Bryant had his offensive game going, but his two mental mistakes cost the Los Angeles Lakers dearly.

Bryant reached the 50-point plateau for the fifth time in seven games, but his two late blunders gave the Houston Rockets a 107-103 overtime triumph over the Lakers.

Yao Ming collected 39 points and 11 rebounds and fellow All-Star Tracy McGrady had 30 points and 10 assists for Houston, which has only lost twice in its last 13 games.

A nine-time All-Star, Bryant scored 53 points to finish the month of March with a 40.4 average - the first NBA player since Wilt Chamberlain to achieve the feat. Bryant shot 19-of-44 from the field, including 3-of-9 on 3-pointers, and made 12-of-14 free throws.

"It was a hard-fought game," Bryant said. "They deserved to win it in regulation and we deserved to win it in overtime."

On December 15, Bryant also netted 53 points in the Lakers' 121-101 victory over the Rockets here.

In the extra session, Bryant poured in eight straight points and Lamar Odom split a pair of foul shots as the Lakers opened a 104-100 edge with 1:02 remaining.

But Bryant fouled McGrady behind the arc, and the star swingman made all three of his free throws to make it a one-point game. Juwan Howard's rebound and assist to Yao gave the Rockets a 105-104 lead with 22 seconds left.

"First of all, that was a hard rebound to get," Yao said. "That play by Howard was the ballgame right there. I started wedging and I knew my man was going to try and block that shot, and I was ready if he was going to shoot the ball or if he was going to pass me the ball. He tried the pass to me and I just put it in the basket."

On the ensuing possession, Bryant was called for traveling at mid-court, and Rafer Alston sank a pair from the line for a three-point edge.

"(The officials) didn't say anything," Bryant said. "I didn't get a chance to talk to them too much. They can make that call anytime in the game. I was really shocked. I can't believe they would call that in that situation."

"I think (Bryant) did travel," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I mean, I saw it and there's a lot of times they don't call that at that point of the game. I think (Luis Grillo) made the correct call."

McGrady was shocked the Rockets received that type of call.

"I was surprised to get that call, especially on the road," McGrady said. "When I heard that whistle blow, I thought something was wrong with the shot clock, somebody through something on the court, but I didn't expect to hear a traveling violation, especially (Kobe)."

Los Angeles had a chance to force another overtime, but Bryant missed from the arc at the top of the key in the final seconds.

Houston led 95-92 in regulation, before Bryant ran down teammate Kwame Brown's second missed free throw and drained the game-tying 3-pointer in front of the Rockets' bench with 11 seconds to go.

McGrady had a chance to win it but missed a pull-up jumper as time expired.

The win helped Houston (47-26) close within one-half game of fourth-place Utah (47-25) for home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Odom had 16 points, 17 rebounds and four steals for Los Angeles, which shot 40 percent (36-of-88) from the field and scored 17 second-chance points.

"A play here, a play there, miss those free throws that I missed down the stretch," Odom said. "It came back and bit us in our butt."

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