Bryant Surges Late as Lakers Top Rockets
L.A. Lakers 89, Houston 78
HOUSTON, Feb. 8 (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Lakers knew Kobe Bryant would remain silent for only so long. But they probably had no idea Brian Cook would continue to make this much noise.
Bryant scored 24 of his 32 points in the second half and Cook turned in his second straight strong performance with 27 as the Lakers snapped a four-game losing streak with an 89-78 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Bryant's struggles continued early in Houston. He scored just eight points on 3-of-7 shooting in the first half, but did collect seven of his nine assists as Cook contributed 19 points to build a 44-33 lead after two quarters.
"Tonight, what the Lakers did, that was inspiring," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Cook is just a very good running big (man) that can shoot and when you have a guy like Bryant that is going to draw the double-team, it's important to have a guy like that."
The Rockets opened the second half with a 17-5 run, taking a 50-49 lead on Rafer Alston's layup with 7:31 left in the third quarter and opening a 57-54 advantage on David Wesley's 3-pointer 1:40 later.
That was when Bryant awoke, hitting four consecutive jumpers to give the Lakers the lead for good. Lamar Odom followed Bryant's outburst with a 3-pointer to make it 65-57 with 3:15 to go in the period.
"We were playing well in the first half and guys were hitting shots," Bryant said. "When they (the Rockets) started knocking down their shots in the second half, I came down court, and I was open and I said, 'Wait a minute, I want to punish these guys,' because I haven't been that wide open for like two months. I felt good."
Bryant added a layup before the end of the quarter and opened the final period with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 73-62 with 10:37 remaining.
After rookie Luther Head hit a 3-pointer at the other end, Bryant sank a jumper and Cook and Smush Parker drained consecutive shots from the arc to open an 81-65 bulge with 6:43 to play.
"I am pleased with Kobe and how he controlled the offense," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "We had people open because they were doubling him and that got some people open and we found them."
"It's very easy to run the offense when Kobe gets double-teamed," said Cook, who was 11-of-18 from the field. "We find the open man and just try to knock down shots. When Kobe gets double-teamed, other people just need to step up and knock down shots. It might not be me, it might be someone else every other night because I feel there are a couple different guys who can score."
While Bryant broke out in the second half, Tracy McGrady struggled throughout for Houston, scoring just 11 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
"Tracy looks like he's injured to me," Jackson said. "He just didn't seem to play with as much vigor."
Alston scored 16 points, Wesley chipped in 15 and Yao Ming added 14 and 13 rebounds for the Rockets, who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
"It was a poor performance and I think we just got too comfortable with ourselves during the winning streak," said McGrady, who was held to 13 points Monday at Philadelphia. "Right now, I am just in a real bad funk on offense and why, I don't know. It is just very disappointing."
Los Angeles rookie forward Ronny Turiaf made his season debut just over six months after undergoing open-heart surgery and played one minute, missing one shot.