Bryant's double-double helps Lakers hold off WizardsMar 31, 2008 - 6:16 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- After two highly uncharacteristic losses, the Los Angeles Lakers got back on track Sunday.
Bryant had 26 points and 13 assists for the Lakers in a 126-120 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards.
With his 15th double-double of the season, Bryant helped Los Angeles (50-24) become the third team in the Western Conference - and fifth team overall - to reach the 50-win mark and helped it stay within a game of New Orleans (50-22) and San Antonio (51-23) atop the West.
"It was a hump for us to get over the last several years," said Bryant of reaching 50 wins. "And it feels good to get there."
Bryant was coming off a 53-point performance in the loss to Memphis. Although he made only 7-of-24 shots Sunday, he received plenty of support as seven players reached double figures in scoring for the Lakers.
Sasha Vujacic scored 20 points and Luke Walton added a season-high 19 off the bench.
"Teams are just making a conscious effort to throw the kitchen sink at me," Bryant said. "So we have to have that trust where guys knock down shots and we were able to do that, so it keeps the defense extremely honest."
The win stopped a two-game skid which included losses to Charlotte and Memphis - a pair of teams bound for the lottery - and a three-game home losing streak overall which knocked Los Angeles from the top spot in the Western Conference.
"When you start losing, it's like enough is enough and you come out with a different mind-set," Walton said. "I think our whole team came out a lot more focused and Coach (Phil Jackson) had us meditate in shootaround today, so we were all nice and relaxed."
The effort was barely enough to overcome Caron Butler's third triple-double of the season. He had 17 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists against his former team, including a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in regulation that tied the game at 111-111 and sent it to overtime.
"We got a real good ballclub," Butler said. "We (have) so many options, guys are stepping up night in and night out and performing at a high level."
Washington built up a four-point lead in the extra period, but Derek Fisher drained a 3-pointer and another long jumper to get the Lakers within 120-119 with 1:02 remaining.
After a Wizards' turnover, Bryant converted two free throws on the next possession, giving the Lakers a 121-120 advantage with 37 seconds remaining.
Nick Young's short fadeaway on the ensuing possession came up empty, and the Wizards were forced to foul Bryant, who hit the first free throw but missed the second. Walton hustled to save the ball from going out of bounds, throwing it to Vujacic, who was fouled.
Vujacic hit a pair of free throws to increase the lead to four. Lamar Odom grabbed the rebound off a 3-point miss by Butler, leading to an uncontested dunk on the other end by Walton to account for the final score.
"This is what NBA basketball is all about, this is where 'amazing happens,'" Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf said. "We did a good job of weathering the storm (and) not panicking. We still ran our offense and did what we had to do to come out on top with the W."
DeShawn Stevenson hit a personal-best eight 3-pointers to finish with a career-high 27 points for the Wizards. Young, who played his college ball at nearby Southern California, also had a career-high 27, with 21 coming in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
"I felt kind of good coming home," Young said. "Get to see my home, my mom, family and friends - that got me going a little bit."
The teams made NBA history in the process, as the game marked the first time since the inception of the 3-point line that both squads shot better than 50 percent from the arc but under 50 percent from the field.
The Lakers shot 49 percent (43-for-87) overall but 51 percent (14-for-27) from the arc. Likewise, the Wizards shot 47 percent (41-for-88) from the field but 56 percent (17-for-30) from 3-point range.
LA LAKERS 126 FINAL IN 1ST OT
Mar 31 12:15 AM
LA LAKERS 111 END OF 4TH QTR GOING INTO OVERTIME
Mar 30 11:57 PM
LA LAKERS 86 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 30 11:23 PM
LA LAKERS 58 HALFTIME
Mar 30 10:38 PM
LA LAKERS 27 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 30 10:06 PM
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