for this game

Bryant, Lakers use big fourth to down Knicks

Jan 30, 2008 - 7:32 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- With a season-long road trip on the horizon, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers got the momentum they were looking for.

Bryant finished with 24 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds as the Lakers overcame a fourth-quarter deficit and snapped a three-game losing skid by defeating the New York Knicks, 120-109, on Tuesday.

Sasha Vujacic scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for the Lakers, who are set to hit the road for nine straight games away from Staples Center - beginning with Detroit on Thursday - having suffered through their worst stretch of the season.

"We just got a better hold of what (New York) was trying to do offensively," said Bryant of the Lakers, who dropped a close contest to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. "I think coverages defensively were much better. We took the Cleveland game and other games and worked on our screen-and-roll coverage and came out tonight with better execution."

The win is certainly a good omen as they embark on the trip.

"Fortunately for us, we did a great job weathering the storm, just playing good team basketball, good team defense and we got a nice 'W' before we head on the road, because we know how difficult it's going to be," Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf said.

Trailing by nine early in the fourth, Vujacic kept the Lakers close by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to get within three, before a big spurt gave them the lead for good.

Los Angeles went ahead 110-104 on Lamar Odom's dunk with 4:11 remaining to cap a 10-0 run and kept it up as Vujacic nailed a game-sealing shot from the arc for a 10-point lead with 1:18 left in the game.

"Whenever I have an opportunity to play in the fourth quarter, the quarter that I love the most, I'll do my best to deliver," Vujacic said.

Nate Robinson did his best to keep the Knicks close, scoring 10 of his 22 points in the fourth, including a pair of 3-pointers to put his team up by eight points with 9:46 on the clock.

"The last five, six minutes of the game we didn't have good defensive execution, we didn't have good offensive execution, we kind of had a meltdown, and it's disappointing," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said.

Bryant, who has excelled against the Knicks of late - averaging 36.8 points his last five against them - deferred to his teammates in this one as six Lakers were in double figures.

The All-Star guard had just four points at the half as he took just six shots but managed to dish out seven assists.

Lamar Odom had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Turiaf had 14 and five blocks for Los Angeles, which improved to 13-0 this season when at least six players are in double figures in scoring.

"When we play as a team, we are hard to beat, and when we play the defense that we played in the fourth quarter, we are unbeatable," Vujacic said.

Los Angeles suffered a slight blow when forward Luke Walton left the game after suffering a hip pointer while fighting for a rebound in the first quarter. Already nursing a tender ankle, Walton is expected to make the upcoming trip with the team but could miss some action.

The Knicks up-and-down season continues as they have dropped the first two of a five-game road trip, despite Jamal Crawford's 22 points and David Lee's 21 off the bench.

"It's frustrating, through the course of the season you get better and better (but) we just have to find ways to win in the end, like we have been saying since the beginning," Robinson said.

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