for this game

Bryant steps up again as Lakers down Raptors

Mar 12, 2008 - 7:30 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - With a challenging road trip on the horizon, the Los Angeles Lakers first had some business to attend to at home.

Kobe Bryant scored 34 points and filled the stat sheet to help the Lakers hold off the Toronto Raptors, 117-108, on Tuesday.

Bryant also finished with seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals while Lamar Odom added 20 points and nine rebounds for Los Angeles.

It was a nice rebound performance for Bryant - who scored 26 points on Sunday, but just one in the fourth quarter in a home loss to the Sacramento Kings.

"We played better team basketball (than on Sunday)," Lakers center Pau Gasol said.

Getting the victory was particularly important for the Lakers, who will face four playoff-contending squads over the next week and a half. Beginning on Friday, the team travels to play New Orleans, Houston, Dallas and Utah.

"Of course, it's going to be tough," Odom said of the upcoming road trip. "(We're playing) some great teams with some great records. It's really tough in the West right now, but hopefully we can get them."

But Lakers coach Phil Jackson warned that his team's play needs to improve if it plans to have a successful trip.

"I told them, basically, we aren't going to beat any of those teams if we play like we have played the last two or three games," Jackson said.

Los Angeles (45-19) owns the best record in the Western Conference after picking up a half-game lead on the idle San Antonio Spurs.

Early in the fourth, the Lakers took their first double-digit lead as Jordan Farmar hit two long jumpers to make it 87-77 - a cushion that the Raptors could not overcome.

"I think we did a better job (defensively)," Gasol said. "I think we can get better and improve, but I think we did a better job collectively helping each other out and compacting."

Gasol, who had been relatively quiet for much of the game, put the Lakers ahead, 110-102, after Rasho Nesterovic had trimmed the lead to six following back-to-back baskets with 1:35 remaining.

The game was sealed when Derek Fisher hit a 3-pointer from the corner with less than a minute left to push the lead back to double figures.

The Lakers finished the game hitting 15-of-31 shots from beyond the arc, setting season highs in both categories.

"At home, you kind of have a little more leeway to take those shots," Bryant said. "On the road, particularly if they are not falling, you use a little bit more discretion."

The Raptors played without sixth straight game without All-Star forward Chris Bosh, their leading scorer and rebounder, because of a sore right knee. T.J. Ford picked up some of the slack with 28 points - including 14 in the fourth.

Toronto is just 2-4 without Bosh in the lineup since he left the court early in the first quarter of a February 29 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

"With (Bosh) out, you got a couple of guys that need to step up and be aggressive and try to manufacture points and get some offense," said Raptors guard Anthony Parker, who finished with 21 points. "Because it's a huge vacuum Chris leaves on the offensive end (when he's playing)."

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