Lakers 101, Bucks 96

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kobe Bryant got the Los Angeles Lakers off to a fast start with his marksmanship behind the 3-point arc. He won it for them at the free throw line.

Bryant scored 43 points, including six foul shots in the final 20 seconds, and the Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 101-96 Friday night to record their first three-game winning streak in more than two months.

Bryant hadn’t been going to the line much lately, averaging fewer than six attempts over his previous eight games. He was a perfect 14-for-14 against the Bucks, who allowed Seattle to go 41-for-51 from the line in Wednesday’s loss to the SuperSonics.

“It feels good to be able to get back to the free throw line and have confidence that when I attack the basket, the other team isn’t just going to have liberty to hit me and get away with it,” Bryant said. “I’ll be able to get to the free throw line and get some easy points for our team.

“It makes our lives a lot easier when you get to the free throw line and not have to go through our sets and execute our offense all the time.”

Five of Bryant’s first six baskets were 3-pointers, helping the Lakers open up 13-point lead after one quarter. The NBA’s leading scorer was only 5-for-23 from behind the arc over the previous five games, and 12-for-49 during an eight-game stretch.

“Kobe had a terrific game,” Bucks coach Terry Stotts said. “We probably did a good job on him, actually—after the way he started off. He made his foul shots down the stretch, but for 2 1-2 quarters, we did as good a job as you could ask for.”

Kwame Brown, coming off his best game of the season, had 16 points and nine rebounds after getting 21 points and 12 boards in Wednesday’s 87-80 win over Sacramento.

“When you have an elite scorer like Kobe Bryant, it makes it easier for guys like me,” Brown said.

Brown grabbed two critical offensive rebounds in the final minute to help put Milwaukee away. He also turned in the game’s most spectacular play with 2:38 left in the first half, reaching back as far as he could for Lamar Odom’s alley-oop pass and slamming it home to give Los Angeles a 51-45 lead.

“That was a great move,” said Odom, who matched Brown’s point and rebound totals. “He’s real athletic, so you can just throw the ball by the rim and he’ll go up and finish it. We’re trying to find him. He’s real aggressive underneath the basket. He’s protecting our paint, and we love the job that he’s doing.”

Michael Redd had 20 points for the Bucks, who had six players in double figures. But point guard T.J. Ford spent his 23rd birthday on the inactive list because of a strained left quad, which occurred in the second half of Wednesday’s 114-105 loss at Seattle. He has missed only seven games this season, after sitting out all of last season because of a bruised spinal cord.

Ford’s injury forced the Bucks to use their 10th different starting lineup. Charlie Bell started for the second time in 53 NBA games and missed his first five shots before finishing with 15 points on 5-for-14 shooting. He also had the unenviable task of guarding Bryant, who came in with a league-leading 34.7 scoring average.

The Bucks have lost 10 consecutive games against the Lakers, and 19 of the last 21 meetings. That stretch began with a 106-98 loss at the Forum, when Del Harris was in his first season as Lakers coach.

Bobby Simmons’ 20-footer capped a 13-5 run that trimmed Milwaukee’s 10-point deficit to 88-86 with 6 minutes to play, but that was as close as they got. The Lakers went 7 minutes and 33 seconds without a field goal before Smush Parker’s breakaway dunk off his steal of Redd gave the Lakers a 95-90 lead with 47 seconds remaining.

“They made that little run and the end, and we had to make some big plays,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “The biggest plays were defensive— although Kwame got an offensive rebound that really changed the complexion of the game and forced them to foul.”

Odom drained a pair of 3-pointers 48 seconds apart, capping a 15-0 run that turned an eight-point Lakers deficit into a 75-68 lead with 2:54 left in the third quarter. His best individual effort came with 8:20 left in the game, ignoring Bryant’s pleas for the ball and driving the lane on Joe Smith from the top of the 3-point arc for an off-balance finger roll that gave Los Angeles an 88-80 lead.


Among the crowd of 18,745 was Caron Butler, whom the Lakers traded to Washington last August in a four-player deal that brought Brown to Los Angeles. Butler and the Wizards are in town for Saturday’s matinee against the Clippers. … Milwaukee’s loss mathematically assured the Bucks of finishing with a losing record on the road for the 19th time in 20 seasons. Their only winning record during that stretch was in 2000-01 (21-20).

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
C. Bell C. Bell
5-14,  15 Pts
7 Rebs, 7 Assists
 LA Lakers
L. Odom L. Odom
6-11,  16 Pts
9 Rebs, 6 Assists

Team Stat Leaders