Kobe Returns; Lakers Move to 3-0
Posted Nov 4 2006 5:12AM
By KEN PETERS,
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 3 (AP) --The Los Angeles Lakers were able to win without Kobe. Now they've won with him.
The Lakers won their opening two games while Bryant worked his way back from the arthroscopic surgery he had on his right knee during the offseason.
``I feel pretty good. I wasn't thinking about the knee that much,'' said Bryant, who seemed to be moving as well as usual on the court. ``It's exciting to be back. I am happy to be out on the floor.
``The timing and rhythm was off but that will come back in time. In the first half I jumped off the leg for a reverse layup. That was something I didn't do at all last year.''
Bryant played 41 minutes and went 8-of-15 from the field. He had six assists and four rebounds.
Odom made five free throws in the closing 36 seconds to help the Lakers hold off the Sonics. Luke Walton had a career-high 20 points and eight rebounds for Los Angeles.
``Having Kobe back, watching Ronny (Turiaf) come up big in the end, that was awesome. That was a lot more fun for me than having a career high in points,'' Walton said.
The 28-year-old Bryant, an eight-time all-star who led the league in scoring with a 35.4 average last season, missed all the Lakers' exhibition games this fall.
Without Bryant, Odom had 34 points and 13 rebounds in a season-opening win over Phoenix and 22 points in the second victory, against Golden State.
``The guys worked extremely hard in the offseason,'' Bryant said. ``To step up when we needed them at the beginning of the season is great.''
The Sonics led 102-100 with 4:55 left in the game. But Turiaf's two free throws pulled the Lakers even, and he added a jumper for a 104-102 lead shortly afterward, and Los Angeles didn't trail again.
Seattle coach Bob Hill was unhappy with the disparity in free throws.
``It's difficult to win a basketball game when one team (Los Angeles) shoots 48 free throws and your team shoots 16 and you go to the basket for two-thirds of the game,'' Hill said. ``That's very difficult to overcome.''
He was particularly displeased that Chris Wilcox didn't get a call late in the game.
``We were down by four with 30-something seconds left to play and we wanted to go two-for-one with a chance to win the game. Wilcox just got knocked,'' Hill said. ``The Lakers grabbed his arm and just knocked him on his back.
``That's wrong and we earned the right to get a foul on that play. I just can't believe that Wilcox didn't get a free throw on that play.''
Allen hit a jumper, was fouled by Bryant and made the free throw to draw the Sonics even at 77-77 with 4:07 left in the third quarter. Down 33-13 nine minutes into the game, the Sonics chipped away at the lead and pulled within 50-48 with 4:44 left in the second quarter. Los Angeles led 65-56 at halftime.
NOTES: Bryant wore his new Lakers' number, 24, for the first time. He had worn 8 in Los Angeles, but decided he wanted to go back to the number he wore as a high school freshman. ... The Lakers averaged 112 points in their two wins without Bryant, defeating Phoenix by eight in the season opener in Los Angeles, then beating Golden State by 12 in Oakland. ... The Sonics lost their season opener 110-106 to Portland on Wednesday. ... The Lakers still are missing F-C Kwame Brown (shoulder), C Chris Mihm (ankle) and G Aaron McKie (back).
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