Los Angeles 100, San Antonio 96

SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 17 (AP) -- Kobe Bryant knew it was his job to set the pace for the Los Angeles Lakers, so he focused on staying relaxed in a tough road environment.

Bryant scored 34 points after a slow start, leading the Lakers to a 100-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

"I had to set the tempo for the ballclub,'' Bryant said. "If I started griping with the officials right off the bat, it could create a domino effect for everyone else. ... I had to relax, let it go down, sit on the bench, sit on my hands and wait until the second quarter.''

Bryant had just three points in the first quarter but scored 17 in the second.

"This is a tough place to play. A tough place to play. For us to come in here and win is big for us. I'm sure it's not that big a deal for San Antonio, but it's big for us,'' he said.

The Spurs continue to struggle, falling to 5-5 in their last 10 games.

"We are not even able to win at home as regular as we used to,'' said Manu Ginobili, who had 16 points. "We really got to step up.''

The Spurs fell to 27-13 (14-7 at home) and the Lakers improved to 26-13.

"San Antonio is a little hurt, they're playing a little down right now,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We caught a team that didn't shoot the ball very well down the stretch. We're happy for the win, but we're not going to crown ourselves just yet.''

And it wasn't exactly an easy win for Los Angeles. San Antonio rallied in the fourth to briefly hold the lead before Bryant scored go-ahead basket with 1:24 left.

Vladimir Radmanovic added 13 points and Maurice Evans had 11 as the Lakers took the opener of a tough back-to-back in Texas. They visit Dallas, which has the NBA's best record, on Thursday night.

Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 26 points and nine rebounds. Tony Parker contributed 25 points and Brent Barry added 13.

The Spurs opened the fourth down 73-71 and with just four players on the court, giving them a technical foul and the Lakers another point. Los Angeles increased its lead to double digits with a 10-2 run, capped by Brian Cook's dunk.

Ginobili brought the Spurs within one with a steal and fast-break dunk, followed by two made foul shots.

Andrew Bynum, who had six points, fouled out with 3:05 left, then Ronny Turiaf sent Ginobili to the line again. He sank both with 2:54 on the clock to give San Antonio a 91-90 lead, its first since the close of the third.

"I thought the last 5+ minutes of the game was our best basketball. We played very well and unfortunately we didn't play anywhere close to that for the rest of the game,'' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Bryant's basket made it 94-92, and the Lakers extended the lead to 96-93 with less than a minute to play. Ginobili missed a wide-open 3-point shot with a chance to tie. Then Turiaf hit a jumper to put Los Angeles up by five.

Barry drained a 3 to bring San Antonio within two points with 5.3 seconds left and the Spurs fouled Bryant, who hit both to put the Lakers up 100-96 with 4.9 on the clock.

A last-second 3-point attempt by the Spurs' Robert Horry missed.

"After getting a big lead in the third quarter, I thought we played awful basketball for about four minutes,'' Jackson said. "Turnovers and offensive fouls. It is a good win, you can't take that away from us, but we can do better.''

The Spurs took a 25-19 lead into the second, but the Lakers quickly came back, tying the Spurs with 8:34 left in the period.

The teams were tied four times in the quarter, with the Spurs gaining a 53-49 lead at halftime.

Bryant had 20 points in the first half. Duncan and Parker had 15 apiece for the Spurs.

The Spurs stayed a basket or two ahead of the Lakers for the first four minutes of the third quarter, until a dunk from Bynum with 7:56 left tied it at 57.

Less than a minute later, Bryant drove past Bruce Bowen to the basket for a dunk over Duncan. The Spurs took a timeout and took the lead off a basket from Parker, but Bryant dunked again with 5:51 left to put the Lakers up 61-60.

The Spurs held Bryant to just six points in the quarter, but two 3-pointers in a row at the close of the period from Radmanovic put Los Angeles up 73-71 going into the final 12 minutes.

Notes: The Lakers beat the Spurs 106-99 on Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. ... The Spurs take on the New Orleans Hornets in San Antonio on Friday. ... Both teams were plagued by turnovers, with the Spurs committing 19 and giving up 25 points. Los Angeles had 17 turnovers for 23 points. Bryant had seven turnovers and Ginobili had six. ... The Spurs have lost two in a row; the Lakers are on a three-game winning streak.

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