LOS ANGELES, March 17 (Ticker) -- In less than two minutes, the Los Angeles Lakers nearly undid a dominant offensive performance.

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Kobe Bryant scored 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting and Shaquille O'Neal had 21 and 11 rebounds as the Lakers held on for a 106-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in the opener of a home-and-home series.

The Lakers, who were the road team, led by as many as 17 points as they shot nearly 60 percent (38-of-63) through three quarters. They led comfortably until the Clippers rallied late.

"We had a meltdown mentally in the second half," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We made too many mistakes down the stretch."

Trailing by 10 with just under two minutes remaining, the Clippers scored eight of the next nine points after O'Neal fouled out.

Corey Maggette sank two free throws, buried a jumper and, after teammate Keyon Dooling's dunk, made a 3-pointer to bring the Clippers within 104-102 with 17 seconds left.

The Lakers threw away the inbounds pass and the Clippers had a chance to tie, but Maggette and Dooling missed 3-pointers in the final seconds.

"It's tough when you put yourself in a predicament like that, being down (17) points to such a talented team," Clippers forward Elton Brand said. "They can score and were hitting on all cylinders in the first half. But we fought, we tried to get it into overtime. We were right there."

Lakers forward Karl Malone had 17 points and eight rebounds in his third game back from a knee injury. It was his best game since scoring 20 against the New York Knicks on Dec. 9.

"I'm feeling better every game," he said. "I got a ways to go, but I do feel better."

Devean George scored 12 points and Gary Payton had 10 and seven assists for the Lakers, who finished at 55 percent (45-of-82) from the floor to overcome 20 turnovers.

The Lakers won for the eighth time in 10 games and moved within 1 1/2 games of Minnesota for the second-best record in the Western Conference.

Brand had 26 points and nine rebounds and Maggette added 25 and eight for the Clippers, who have lost 12 of their last 14 games.

"I'm disappointed," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "In the first half, we gave up a lot of easy baskets. In the second half, we came out and played much better. We never give up."

Quentin Richardson added 21 points as the Clippers shot just 43 percent (38-of-88) from the floor, including 2-of-13 3-pointers, but made 25-of-30 free throws.