for this game

Bryant helps Lakers deliver early knockout

Feb 3, 2008 - 9:49 PM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) - Pau Gasol got a first-hand look at his new team. He had to be impressed.

Kobe Bryant scored 19 of his 30 points in the first quarter as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Washington Wizards, 103-91, on Sunday in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.

Acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday for center Kwame Brown and two other players, Gasol underwent a physical in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson elected to keep Gasol on the bench after the seven-foot center made a cross-country flight. But with Bryant on fire from the outset, Los Angeles did not need its newest addition.

"I am truly excited about what I am going through right now," Gasol said. "I didn't see it coming. I didn't know anything about it. I found out after practice (on Friday) and the next thing I know, three hours later, I was on a plane to Los Angeles.

"I am really excited and I am trying to digest everything I am going through. I am ready to rock and roll."

Bryant helped the Lakers deliver an early knockout, as they led 30-15 after the first quarter and 63-39 at halftime. He scored 25 points in the first half - one less than the combined total of the Wizards' starting five.

"It was very important for us to get out to a quick start here," said Bryant, whose second dunk of the game gave the Lakers an early 17-7 lead. "We didn't want them to gain much momentum, and we were able to do that."

DeShawn Stevenson, who had the unenviable task of guarding Bryant, picked up his third foul with 5:35 remaining in the first quarter.

"They had their way," Stevenson said. "They did anything they wanted. They were knocking down threes and getting to the foul line. It was a tough night for us but we've got to come back and get out of this slump."

Los Angeles shot 66 percent (25-of-38) in the opening half while holding Washington to 36 percent (15-of-42).

The Lakers, who never trailed, improved to 2-1 on a nine-game road trip that continues in New Jersey on Tuesday.

"I'm not surprised," Bryant said. "We all knew we could come out here and play well. We're very disappointed that we gave one away in Detroit (a 90-89 loss on Thursday).

"We feel like we should be 3-0 (on the trip) right now, but that was a good lesson for us because we played extremely well. With that kind of effort in the rest of these games, we'll be fine."

The NBA's second-leading scorer behind LeBron James, Bryant is averaging 35.8 points in his last six contests. During that stretch, he has two games with at least 40 points, including 46 in Friday's 121-101 win at Toronto.

"He's the best in the game right now, hands down," said Wizards forward Caron Butler, who returned to the Wizards' lineup and scored 15 points after missing three games with a left hip injury.

"He is playing magnificently, and with the addition of Pau Gasol, they are going to be great. When a guy like that gets rolling, you are trying to stop one of the best players ever and we weren't able to."

With the contest out of reach, Bryant did not look to score as much in the second half and sat out most of the fourth quarter.

Vladimir Radmanovic chipped in with 15 points for the Lakers on 6-of-9 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists.

Los Angeles spread around the wealth, as Lamar Odom contributed 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds and five assists.

Ronny Turiaf added 13 points and five assists for the Lakers, while Sasha Vujacic finished with 12 points and three assists in 23 minutes off the bench for the Lakers.

"We've grown a lot together and we understand how to play with one another," Bryant said. "I think that's the big key - the chemistry and knowing where guys are. You saw tonight guys just moving the ball almost blindly because we knew where each other were going to be on the floor.

Jackson also was pleased with what he saw.

"I like the rhythm in the change of direction with Kobe moving to small forward and Sasha (Vujacic) and Jordan (Farmar) coming in," he said. "That seems to work well for us with him (Bryant) down playing at the forward spot. The guards are going to have to do a little something different - they'll have to put a forward on him."

Antawn Jamison recorded his 27th double-double of the season with 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Wizards, who have dropped three straight.

"It was disappointing to not come out with the energy that we needed," Jamison said. "Kobe did a phenomenal job in the first half and we kind of forced some things. We weren't able to get in a rhythm offensively or defensively."

The 63 points was the most the Wizards have allowed in the first half this season.

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