for this game

Bryant leads Lakers past Rockets

Nov 15, 2007 - 7:08 AM By Gene Duffey PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

HOUSTON (Ticker) - Without Tracy McGrady, the Houston Rockets couldn't keep up with the Los Angeles Lakers at the end.

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points to lead the Lakers to a 93-90 victory over the Rockets on Wednesday night.

Los Angeles bounced back from a 107-92 loss at San Antonio on Tuesday night, a game in which Bryant scored a season-low 18 points.

"It's a good step for us, to be able to bounce back," Bryant said. "I'm eternally optimistic."

"You have to be satisfied to win one," coach Phil Jackson said of splitting the two games in Texas.

The Lakers caught a break when McGrady left the game late in the first half with a strained right elbow and was taken to Memorial-Hermann Hospital for an MRI exam.

McGrady took two free throws with 50 seconds left in the second quarter, making the first and missing the rim on the second. He walked immediately to the Rockets' bench and was escorted to the locker room by trainer Keith Jones.

"I've got a strained elbow and a stressed nerve, whatever that means," McGrady said after returning to the locker room at the end of the game. "There is a lot of inflammation around my elbow, so right now it is day-to-day. The doctors say it will be a week, but I don't know. We'll see.

'It's definitely good news because I actually thought it could have been a lot worse. I couldn't feel my fingers for a while. It was very painful. Right now I couldn't play if I tried."

The 6-8 swingman, who will be listed as day-to-day, scored nine points in 19 minutes in the first half, which ended with the Lakers holding a 71-69 lead.

Houston stayed in the game in the third quarter even without McGrady. Bonzi Wells, Yao Ming and Rafer Alston led a 17-4 run that brought the Rockets within 69-68 with 4:17 to go in the third. They finally tied the game at 71-71 on a 3-pointer by Shane Battier.

"Sometimes that happens," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said of the Rockets playing better in the second half in McGrady's absence. "Instead of one player taking all those shots, they get evenly distributed and you have a total team offense."

A free throw and 3-pointer by Maurice Evans gave Los Angeles a 75-71 edge by the end of the third quarter.

Houston kept coming and took its first lead since the first quarter at 83-81 on a baseline jumper by Yao with 5:43 to play.

Bryant took over from there, hitting a pair of outside jumpers and two free throws for an 89-85 lead with 1:47 to play.

The Lakers won the game at the foul line, making their last eight free throws while Houston missed 6-of-11 in the final 2:30.

Bryant made the only field goal in the last 4 1/2 minutes - other than a rebound basket by Yao with one second to play - when he hit a jumper from the right wing with 1:47 to go for an 89-85 lead.

"That's kind of my weapon that I can go to, that fadeaway," Bryant said.

Down by five in the final seconds, the Rockets almost tied it. Jordan Farmar was called for fouling Yao as he scored on a rebound with one second left to make it 93-90.

Yao (26 points, 13 rebounds) intentionally missed the free throw and the ball ricocheted directly back to him. He quickly passed to Alston, who missed an open 3-pointer.

"Come on, man," Farmar said of the foul call. "The ball fell into (Yao's) lap and I was just standing there."

"I was surprised Dick Bavetta made that call, but then not when I thought about it for a second," Jackson said. "Just to make it a game, that's typical."

Houston coach Rick Adelman saw some good in the loss.

"It thought it was a great effort in the second half," he said. "In the first half we just struggled. We just kept missing so many shots. The thing that we talked about at halftime was down at the other end, we just didn't guard them. We gave them open threes. We just can't do that."

Wells scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half and Battier scored all eight of his points in the third quarter.

Jackson credited his reserves for helping building the Lakers' halftime lead.

"Our second unit played great the first half," he said. "Our first unit came out to start the second half and wasn't ready to play again. We just had nothing we could go to the second half."

The Lakers scored only 32 points in the second half, shooting 10-for-31 after hitting 54 percent in the first 24 minutes.

"Battier did a great job (defensively) and we had 14 turnovers," Jackson of his team's offensive struggles in the second half.

"We got in one of those stretches where we were not really sharp with our execution offensively, and I think it sets us up for poor defense," Fisher said.

Farmar led the Lakers' second unit, scoring eight points and grabbing nine rebounds.

"The ball bounced my way," Farmar said. "I tried to do a little bit of everything. The 'Bench Mob,' that's what we've been doing, bringing energy, making shots. It feels like we're playing the right way, always making the right pass, playing good defense, helping each other out."

Bryant, who shot 1-for-7 in the first quarter, took over the game in the second quarter by scoring 10 points in a span of 3 minutes, 38 seconds. He made five consecutive shots, all from the right elbow area, to propel the Lakers to a 54-38 bulge.

"I wanted to kick it up a little bit and take advantage of some opportunities that I saw developing," Bryant said said.

Bryant also added a rebound and a block on the 7-6 Yao during his hot streak.

"Kobe Mutombo," he laughed later.

Bryant made the most of the absence of Battier, who usually guards him but spent all but five minutes of the first half on the bench with three fouls.

"He's a solid defender," Bryant said of the 6-8 Battier. "He's smart and utilizes his body particularly well, but he plays with his head, too."

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