Bryant, Odom Carry Lakers Over Clippers
L.A. Lakers 100, L.A. Clippers 83
LOS ANGELES, April 9 (Ticker) -- With their playoff hopes starting to slip away, the Los Angeles Lakers were fortunate that Kobe Bryant decided to put his foot down.
Bryant scored 17 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers pulled away for a 100-83 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
"We played good defense tonight," said Odom, whose team forced 17 turnovers and held the Clippers to 43 percent shooting. "We played the same way throughout the whole game. That is what we needed to do, especially against a playoff team."
"If Lamar plays like that in the playoffs, it will make us very difficult to beat," Bryant said. "When he is taking his shots in rhythm, he is a handful."
The Clippers got within 80-77 on a jumper by Elton Brand with 6:56 to play, but Bryant answered with a crafty finger roll in the lane and a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions before Kwame Brown tipped an offensive rebound to Odom for a one-handed dunk and an 87-77 lead with 5:24 remaining.
"We played hard tonight," Bryant said. "Even the last two games that we lost on the road, we played hard. We just did not come through down the stretch of the game. Tonight was no different. We are a physical team and we got after them a little bit. All around, it was a good victory."
Bryant made 14-of-27 shots and 7-of-9 free throws, adding five rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Part of what made Bryant's latest impressive effort so outstanding was the fact that he was playing on an injured left calf muscle that he sustained Friday against Phoenix.
"I couldn't even run this morning," Bryant said. "They did a lot of therapy on me after the shootaround and I got here early tonight and they did some therapy on me before the game. I kind of took it easy in the first quarter to see how it was. The same thing happened in the third quarter, when it was a little tight. I was able to go in the second and fourth quarters."
Luke Walton registered 13 points and seven rebounds and Brown nine and eight boards for the Lakers, who shot 45 percent (37-of-82) from the field en route to evening the season series at 2-2.
"When we get to the playoffs, it is all about matchups," Bryant said. "We have to study our opponents, break down their tendencies and then try to take what they like to do from them. Whoever can do that will be the team that advances."
Brand collected 24 points and 10 rebounds and Sam Cassell also contributed 24 points for the Clippers (44-32), who have lost four of their last seven games but still lead Memphis by one-half game for fifth place in the West.
"We weren't playing like every possession was the end of the season," Brand said. "I don't know if it was the fact that we (already) clinched a playoff berth. And not just because it was the Lakers. We should get up for this game and I thought we would."
"What I really care about is us playing well going into the playoffs," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Having a rhythm and confidence and when we get there. That's how we play when we are playing well."