Los Angeles 106, Atlanta 95

Los Angeles, Dec. 8 (AP) -- Luke Walton scored a career-high 25 points, Lamar Odom had 15 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers muddled through without the injured Kobe Bryant to beat the Atlanta Hawks 106-95 on Friday night.

Bryant sat out with a sprained right ankle. Last season's scoring champion was hurt in Monday night's win over Indiana, when he grabbed an offensive rebound and missed an off-balance shot before landing on the right foot of Pacers center Jeff Foster. Bryant played 37 minutes Wednesday but couldn't go Friday.

It was the third game Bryant has missed. He sat out the season's first two games against Phoenix and Golden State because of a sore right knee that underwent arthroscopic surgery in mid-July, and Los Angeles won both. The Lakers shot 56 percent from the field against Atlanta, improving to 7-0 when shooting at least 50 percent.

The Lakers did not announce that Bryant was officially scratched, but he was not on the bench. Maurice Evans started at shooting guard in Bryant's place and scored a career-high 22 points in 40 minutes. It was Evans' 14th start in three-plus NBA seasons and second with the Lakers - his fourth team in four years.

Joe Johnson scored 30 points for the Hawks, who welcomed Speedy Claxton, Josh Childress and Marvin Williams back to the lineup from injuries and got center Zaza Pachulia back from a one-game suspension. Pachulia sat out Wednesday's victory at Denver after the league punished him for elbowing Seattle's Johan Petro in the neck during Tuesday night's loss.

Claxton had missed two games because of sore knees and Josh Childress 10 in a row with a sore left foot. Marvin Williams made his season debut after missing the first 17 games due to a broken bone in his left hand. Williams was the first player off the Hawks' bench and finished with nine points in 26 minutes.

The Lakers led 76-69 after three quarters and opened the fourth with 3-pointers by Jordan Farmar and Evans. Farmar, in his first NBA season after a couple of stellar years at UCLA, finished with a career-high 15 points in 23 minutes off the bench.

Atlanta got as close as 84-76 on a 17-footer by former Laker Tyronn Lue with 8:22 to play. But Los Angeles opened a commanding 98-89 lead when Evans made like Bryant and brought the fans to their feet with a no-look reverse layup that kissed high off the glass. He completed the three-point play on the fast break, which took all the steam out of the Hawks.

The Lakers and Hawks, who face each other again on Feb. 15 in Atlanta, split each of the previous six season series. Atlanta overcame a 15-point deficit against the Lakers in a 114-110 loss at Los Angeles last February, snapping a 23-game road losing streak against Western Conference teams.

Notes: Among the sellout crowd was 15-year-old C.J. Yektazarian, who has cerebral palsy and was a guest of the Lakers through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Los Angeles. His wish was to meet Bryant, who scored 62 points at Staples Center on another occasion last season when Make-A-Wish arranged a trip to a Lakers game for an afflicted youngster. The Lakers donated $500 to the organization for every 3-point basket they made (8-for-19). ... Evans also played one season each with Minnesota, Sacramento and Detroit. ... Johnson is the eighth different player to score 30 or more points against the Lakers this season. Seattle's Ray Allen did it twice. ... The Lakers are the only team in the league that hasn't played a game that was decided by three points or less. Last season they were 7-9 in that department. ... Josh Smith had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta.


Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited
^M