Kobe's late three lifts Lakers over RocketsJan 14, 2009 - 5:16 AM By Ted Dunnam PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant nailed the go-ahead 3-pointer with 27 seconds left as the Los Angeles Lakers held off the shorthanded Houston Rockets, 105-100, on Tuesday.
Bryant scored 33 points for the Lakers, who outscored the Rockets, 27-18, in the final period to secure the win.
Shane Battier gave Houston a brief lead, 100-99, with 47 ticks remaining, when he buried a 3-pointer from the left corner. Bryant then answered on the ensuing possession.
With nine seconds left, Rockets point guard Rafer Alston corralled the offensive rebound on his own missed shot and was fouled by Derek Fisher.
But the slick floor general missed two free throws and Carl Landry had the offensive board slip out of his grasp with eight ticks left.
On the other end of the floor, Lakers center Pau Gasol had his own problems at the free-throw line, making just 1-of-2 and giving the Rockets one last chance to tie.
Los Angeles then forced Houston inside the arc as Yao Ming fired up an errant jumper. Gasol made two free throws on the other end to provide the final margin.
Bryant said his game-winning shot wasn't the result of anything inventive.
"You just come down and try to get a good look," Bryant said. "The shots felt good, they just weren't going in in the first three quarters.
"It's my responsibility to put the ball in the hole. When the fourth quarter came around, I had to focus even more."
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said it was no secret that Bryant would get the ball in the closing seconds.
"It was need," Jackson said. "It sends (Bryant) to a different level. Kobe found his rhythm at the end and was capable of hitting his shots."
Trevor Ariza scored 14 points off the bench for the Lakers, who have won four straight.
Von Wafer scored a season-high 23 points and Yao added 19 and 17 rebounds for Houston, which played without stars Ron Artest (right ankle) and Tracy McGrady (left knee).
Battier said the loss was tough to take.
"The ones that you invest your heart and soul into that don't go your way, those are the ones that sting," Battier said. "It was encouraging. We played a heck of a game.
"I loved our effort. If we play like that, then we'll have a lot of victories in the future."
Gasol was just happy to emerge with a win.
"They shot the ball really well and we were able to grind it out," Gasol said. "I was pretty impressed with Wafer. He's a young, talented player that makes shots and has an outstanding future."
The Rockets, who had a three-game winning streak snapped, also received a big contribution from Carl Landry, who scored 21 points.
"Unfortunately, they hit some big shots and we came up short," Landry said. "I believe we are headed in the right direction."
Houston led by as many as nine points in the first half before Los Angeles rallied to tie the game at 54-54 by intermission.
Wafer scored nine points in the first quarter as Houston held a 26-25 edge at the end of one period. The Lakers rarely led in the opening half - their biggest advantage was two points on three occasions - but stayed close on the strength of 17 points from Bryant.
Los Angeles shot a respectable 52 percent (24-of-46) from the field, but Houston made 25-of-40 attempts for 63 percent efficiency.
LA LAKERS 105
HOUSTON 100 FINAL
Jan 13 10:55 PM
LA LAKERS 78
HOUSTON 82 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 13 10:15 PM
LA LAKERS 54
HOUSTON 54 HALFTIME
Jan 13 9:31 PM
LA LAKERS 25
HOUSTON 26 END, 1ST QTR
Jan 13 9:01 PM
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