L.A. Lakers 106, Houston 99 (2 OT)
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 18 (Ticker) --
The Los Angeles Lakers started the
game without Shaquille O'Neal
and ended it after Yao Ming
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scored 17 of his season-high 52 points after
regulation as the Lakers posted a 106-99 double-overtime victory
over the struggling Rockets.
O'Neal missed his second straight game with a sore left knee,
thwarting any chance for a rematch with Yao Ming. The Chinese
rookie dominated inside, collecting 24 points and 14 rebounds,
but the game shifted when he fouled out with 29 seconds left in
the first overtime.
"It was very unfortunate losing Yao in a situation where he was
doing a great job," Houston coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "With
games like this, with something on the line, I think he
responded in a really big way."
"That's who we were going to, so it affected us big-time,"
Rockets guard Cuttino Mobley
added. "The rest of us weren't
really mobile at the time. We didn't have a rhthym at the time,
so it affected us a little bit."
Bryant overcame an injured right knee and scored all nine of Los
Angeles' points in the first extra session, then forced a
second overtime by burying a turnaround jumper with 19.7 seconds
He had eight points in the decisive period and recorded an
assist on Mark Madsen's
dunk that gave Los Angeles the lead for
good at 95-93 with 3:58 remaining.
"My teammates are looking for me to carry the load," Bryant
said. "It's a huge responsibility, especially in overtime."
Bryant reached the 40-point mark for the sixth straight game and
has at least 35 points in his last 10 - both franchise records.
He eclipsed his previous season high of 51 points, set
Wednesday at Denver.
"I can't really grasp it," Bryant said. "I just go out and
play. Maybe when I retire I'll look back and say, `Wow.'"
The All-Star guard made 19-of-38 shots from the floor, including
3-of-9 3-pointers, and was 11-of-11 from the free-throw line.
He collected eight rebounds, seven assists and three blocks in a
career-high 54 minutes.
"Phil (coach Phil Jackson) said this morning that this is the
biggest game of the year. That is a challenge I can respond
to," Bryant said. "I will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. The
fact that it was the biggest game of the year meant a lot to me
and a lot to us, and I have to come out and play."
scored 15 points, Derek Fisher
added 13 and Robert
collected eight points, 11 rebounds and six assists as Los
Angeles won for the eighth time in 10 games.
scored 17 points and Mobley and Maurice Taylor
added 16 apiece for the Rockets, who have lost five of their
last six games and fell into a tie with the Lakers for eighth
place in the Western Conference.
"It hurts big-time," Tomjanovich said. "We're trying to grow
up. This was a big one right here. We have to go through this
stuff. We have to play games with something on the line and
learn from it."
Los Angeles had a 74-62 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth
quarter before Houston reeled off 13 straight points.
Taylor scored the first nine during the stretch and former Laker
capped it with a jumper for a 75-74 lead with 3:46
"I thought we did a good job in the fourth quarter making a
comeback," Tomjanovich said. "What an emotional roller coaster
of a game."
Bryant answered with a 3-pointer and Horry buried a shot from
beyond the arc with 1:42 left to give Los Angeles an 82-79 edge.
Taylor made 1-of-2 free throws with 92 seconds to go and Yao
buried a pair from the line to forge an 82-82 tie with eight
Bryant missed a contested jumper from the left wing as time
Francis buried a 3-pointer with 1:49 left in the first overtime
for a 91-87 lead. Bryant made two free throws 58 seconds later
and forged a tie with a short jumper over Mobley, who had his
shot at the buzzer blocked by Madsen.
Houston's Kelvin Cato
opened the second overtime with a tip
shot, but Los Angeles scored 13 of the next 16 points. Fisher
had a three-point play and a jumper in a 37-second span after
scoring just eight points in the first 55 minutes.