for this game

Bryant leads Lakers to fourth straight win

Jan 26, 2009 - 1:18 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Considering the Los Angeles Lakers' recent history with the San Antonio Spurs, any victory over their conference rivals is a sweet one.

Kobe Bryant and his supporting cast carried the Lakers to their fourth straight win, a 99-85 triumph over the Spurs on Sunday.

Bryant scored 22 points and Pau Gasol added 16 for league-leading Los Angeles, which made more free throws (28) than the Spurs attempted (16).

"They've always been a measuring stick, so it feels good to beat them," said Bryant of the Spurs, who have won four NBA titles in the last 10 years.

Andrew Bynum finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for the Lakers, who eliminated San Antonio in five games during last season's Western Conference finals. Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar chipped in 17 and 14 points, respectively, off the bench.

"With both of us being in the conference finals last year, we have to be considered the top teams (in the Western Conference) until somebody proves otherwise," Bryant said.

"We played a stellar game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "And our bench was the difference in breaking the game and holding the lead."

The second matchup of two Western Conference powers was less suspenseful than the first on January 14, when Roger Mason's three-point play in the waning seconds lifted the Spurs to a narrow 112-111 win in San Antonio.

This time, the Lakers made sure there would be no late game heroics.

Gasol helped key the Lakers with a 10-2 spurt early in the fourth. The power forward hit a short jumper, then assisted on a pair of baskets - including a no-look, over-the-head pass that Lamar Odom converted for an easy layup.

After a dunk by Ariza and two free throws by Gasol, the Lakers' advantage ballooned to 89-68 with 7:36 left to play.

The Spurs went cold during the stretch, getting just one basket from Bruce Bowen and a pair of free throws over the first 7:30 of the period.

Tony Parker had 19 points and six assists and Tim Duncan added 15 points for San Antonio, which had won in its previous four outings.

Bryant and Derek Fisher each nailed 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 run coming out of the half to push the lead to double digits at 59-45. The Spurs got within 68-60 on Parker's driving layup, but Ariza's 3-pointer made it a 13-point game heading into the fourth.

"I thought we had a couple of lapses there that turned into points and gave them a lead that we couldn't come back from," Duncan said.

"I thought the Lakers played really well today," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They're a (heck) of a team and are going to be a (heck) of a team for a long time. They're athletic, long, deep and (have) an inside game and outside game."