for this game

Bryant, Lakers hold off late rally from Wizards

Dec 6, 2008 - 5:48 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant scored 23 points, including a turnaround jumper off the glass with just under 25 seconds remaining, as the Los Angeles Lakers escaped with a 106-104 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday.

"I go to that shot when my shot is struggling because my previous jump shots felt good, but they were off target," Bryant said of kissing the game-winning 12-footer off the glass.

"It's a better angle to shoot a bank shot, actually, because all my shots had been going either long or short."

The long and short of this one was the Lakers built a 20-point lead in the third quarter and watched it dwindle to one in the waning seconds.

Wizards forward Caron Butler missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer over Trevor Ariza with 1.5 seconds left and Andray Blatche's tip-in attempt rimmed out as the final horn sounded.

"Trevor is a real good defender," Butler said. "I knew he wasn't going to go for the shot fake and I had an opportunity with a clean look and it just fell a little short. I liked the look and I had a lot of confidence in the shot, but it just fell a little short."

Bryant shot just 5-of-17 from the field but made 12-of-13 free throws to lead six Lakers who scored in double figures. He made a free throw with 13.5 seconds left but missed the second, opening the door for the Wizards.

"I wanted to give Caron an opportunity to win the game," joked Bryant, who also had seven rebounds and seven assists.

Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Pau Gasol added 17, 10 and six assists for the Lakers. Vladimir Radmanovic scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, while Jordan Farmar added 11 and Derek Fisher netted 10.

The Lakers, however, were bothered by the fact that they almost let this one slip away.

"It does bother us that we've given up leads consistently," Gasol said. "Obviously, we're not very happy about that. We've just got to go back to work and make sure that our minds are always in the game, no matter how big our lead is, and make sure we finish things off.

"We can't afford to joke around. I don't even know if it's - just being flat out there. Without being offensive, it is necessary to finish the game off."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson may already have a solution.

"I'm going to change it up a little bit in the future and get the younger guys more involved earlier in the third quarter and then have the veterans come back in around the eight minute mark and run the game out," Jackson said.

Blatche's own follow pulled Washington within 105-104 with 14.6 seconds left. His reverse layup pulled the Wizards to 103-96 with 2:55 remaining.

"I'm just trying to stay around the rim and finish plays," Blatche said. "We worked so hard in the fourth quarter and got it turned around. We're just working hard and something is going to start happening for us. They are a great team. They do everything well."

Butler had 26 points and nine rebounds, Blatche added 18 and 12 in 29 minutes off the bench and Antawn Jamison added 15 and 12 rebounds for Washington.

The Wizards pulled within 99-90 on Butler's follow with 5:44 left. Butler's rebound and jumper made it 99-92, but Ariza answered with a dunk at the other end.

Bryant closed the third quarter with a high-rise, two-handed reverse over-the-head slam off a behind-the-back feed on the run from Ariza that brought the house down and gave the Lakers an 87-72 lead after three.

"Right up to the last play, we had a good flow going offensively and defensively," Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said. "Some of the technical things like keeping our guards up and switching on pick-and-rolls are some of the things that we executed well on, and it allowed us to get back into the game. Doing those things shows terrific effort and execution."

Radmanovic's 3-pointer from the corner capped a 15-3 run and gave the Lakers an 85-65 lead with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter. Radmanovic was perfect on three 3-pointers in the period.

Gasol scored 13 points and Bynum and Bryant added 12 apiece to lead the Lakers to a 58-53 lead at the break.

The Lakers put on a clinic while racing to a 16-point lead in the first quarter. Bynum scored eight quick points and Gasol's jumper gave Los Angeles an early 22-9 lead.

"If we ever get it down to a science where we're really in the triangle, it's really hard to stop us," Bynum said of the Lakers' strong start. "We just have so many weapons. But the second unit relaxed and they got back into the game. They played hard and then when the first unit came back out there, they had the energy of the crowd and the momentum had swung.

"We had to battle that, especially on the road. Up 19 points with nine minutes to go, I couldn't believe it, but they played well for them. Andray Blatche got them going in the fourth quarter."

Gasol scored five straight points and slipped backdoor for a dunk that gave the Lakers a 35-19 advantage in the first quarter.

Bryant did not take his first shot until 6:07 left in the first and settled for two free throws. After one, the Lakers led 35-24 on the strength of 57 percent shooting.