Bryant’s 50-point Game Lifts Lakers
L.A. Lakers 112, L.A. Clippers 109
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 7 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant is not always efficient. But he is always aggressive and usually clutch.
Bryant scored 40 of his 50 points in the second half, capped by the game-winning runner with 11 seconds remaining, to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-109 triumph over the crosstown rival Clippers.
"You got to give him credit," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He made shots that aren't usually possible. He took 41, but made 17. But the 17th came at a bad time for us."
The Lakers squandered a nine-point lead with under three minutes remaining. Elton Brand's turnaround jumper that gave the Clippers a 109-108 lead with 25 seconds to go.
But Bryant - who was red-hot early in the fourth quarter and cooled off later - was able to find the hot hand one last time.
"I'm a scorer," Bryant said. "I never think I cool off. I just go into a slight slump."
The electrifying superstar drove to the basket and drew four defenders but still managed to bank in an off-balance runner in the lane for a one-point lead.
"We needed to trap Kobe a little more and try and get the ball to of his hands," Brand said. "I thought we did, but in the fourth quarter they had four other shooters on the floor and it was difficult to trap him."
On the Clippers' ensuing possession, second-year point guard Shaun Livingston threw away a pass to Smush Parker, who opted for the breakaway dunk instead of dribbling out the final seconds.
"I should have been more aggressive," said Livingston, who scored six points and dished out 10 assists. "I was a little passive. That was my fault as a point guard."
With a final chance to tie it, Livingston took too long to get the ball to Cuttino Mobley for a 3-pointer that went in but well after the final buzzer sounded.
"They play actually worked," Brand said. "Cuttino hit the shot, but too bad for us time expired."
"We had to run a play that had some misdirection to it," Dunleavy said. "We thought we could run the play in 4.5 (seconds) but I guess we needed five."
Bryant scored 22 points in the fourth quarter. He opened the session with a pair of 3-pointers in the first 32 seconds and added a difficult pull-up jumper and another shot from the arc on the next two possessions for an 89-82 lead with 10:30 to go.
"This was a big game for us," said Bryant, who added eight rebounds and eight assists. "There's been a lot said in the papers about this game. At halftime, I just tuned in and I said I am just going to overwhelm these guys with all my power and just send a message to them."
Brian Cook padded the Lakers' lead with a 3-pointer and a tough jumper before Bryant made an near-impossible 3-pointer and driving layup for a 102-90 bulge with 5:35 remaining.
"We were sending guys at (Bryant)," Dunleavy said. "We were double-teaming him, guys had hands there. It wasn't like he was getting uncontested shots. On top of that, Cook must have touched him also because ... he knocked down some big shots."
Cook finished with 16 points off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting. Chris Mihm added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Kwame Brown 10 and 10 for the Lakers, who have won two straight following a five-game losing streak.
"The most important thing is we won," Bryant said. "When I am able to take over a game like that, it does a lot for us."
Mobley scored a season-high 36 points on 12-of-18 shooting and Brand added 28 and 10 boards for the slumping Clippers, who lost for the ninth time in 12 games.
"Incredible performance by Kobe," Dunleavy said. "I thought our guys defended him as well as he could have been defended. He went on that 3-point barrage and that was pretty incredible. We made him work for it, but when it came down to it, he made the shot that counted."