LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kobe Bryant showed signs of his old explosiveness and took over in the fourth quarter, signaling his surgically repaired right knee is getting better.
Playing on four days’ rest, Bryant had 31 points and 11 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers held on to beat the last-place Toronto Raptors 107-100 Friday night, when he went over the 17,000-point mark.
“My leg feels good and I started getting some of that explosion,” he said. “I was able to turn it up. Four days off helped a lot.”
Bryant torched the Raptors for 81 points—second-most in NBA history—last January. This time, he had help. Luke Walton added 12 points, Smush Parker had 11 and Lamar Odom 10 in the Lakers’ first game in four days.
“We can play much better than that,” Odom said. “We could have easily lost this game, but we found a way to win.”
“We had a couple breakdowns,” Bosh said. “They just beat us with loose balls in the end. All the hustle plays that you need to make to win the game, they did.”
Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 17,000 points, going over the mark in the second quarter with a 16-foot jumper from the right baseline off a pass from rookie Jordan Farmar.
At 28 years and 86 days, Bryant got there faster than Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and former teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
“It’s cool, man,” he said. “It puts things in perspective. Twenty-eight is the new 38.”
Farmar hit a 3-pointer and a one-handed driving layup on consecutive possessions and Bryant added four in a row to key an 11-2 run that gave the Lakers a 97-90 lead in a back-and-forth final period.
But the Raptors answered with consecutive 3-pointers by Peterson and Bosh that cut the Lakers’ lead to one with under three minutes remaining.
“We’ve got to start the game with intensity and confidence,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “We played tough in the second half, took the lead and made some silly fouls. You got to make some shots. We had some careless turnovers.”
Things got messy at the end, with Los Angeles clinging to a 102-98 lead. Odom stole the ball from Bosh, but he missed. Parker rebounded, but Bryant missed before Kwame Brown grabbed the rebound and was fouled. He made one of two free throws with 28 seconds to go.
“It’s a work in progress as far as building our rhythm,” Bryant said. “The turnovers will work itself out as long as we execute.”
Garbajosa scored to draw the Raptors within three with 20 seconds left. But Calderon stepped out of bounds and turned the ball over. Bryant made two trips to the free throw line and hit all four to close things out.
“Well, we survived,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “We had a lethargic second half where Toronto played well enough, but our offense stalled so many times.”
The Lakers’ nine-point lead from the first half disappeared in the third quarter. Ford scored 10 points and Jones added nine for the Raptors, who took their first lead of the game before the Lakers went back up by two heading into the fourth.
Miami’s O’Neal will undergo knee surgery and miss four to six weeks, likely keeping him out of the Christmas Day game against the Lakers. “We’ll miss Santa,” Jackson said. “They should change the schedule and let us stay home for Christmas.” … Odom and reserve Brian Cook were tardy arriving to the arena, which Jackson duly noted by writing their names and the word late on the greaseboard in the locker room. … The game was a franchise-record eighth in a row that the Raptors faced an opponent with a .500 or better record. They were 2-6 in that stretch.