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 Bryant, Lakers barely beat Wizards 106-104

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PostSubject: Bryant, Lakers barely beat Wizards 106-104   Sat Dec 06, 2008 8:15 pm

WASHINGTON(AP) Kobe Bryant's first field-goal attempt, officially, came about 5 minutes into Friday night's game.Finding
his path blocked on a drive into the lane, Bryant "shot'' the ball off
the glass right back to himself, then threw a perfect pass to Pau Gasol
for a wide-open jumper. Bryant drew louder "oohs'' and "aahs'' later
with a double-pump, two-handed reverse jam off a behind-the-back feed
from Trevor Ariza.Bryant entertained enough to draw "M-V-P!''
chants again on the road, but he and his teammates on the
best-in-the-West Lakers also nearly found a way to blow a 20-point lead
against the worst-in-the-East Wizards before pulling out a 106-104
victory."We got a little complacent,'' acknowledged Bryant, who finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.Lakers coach Phil Jackson's assessment?"Poor
coaching,'' he said. "That's what it was tonight. Putting too much
trust and faith in a younger group - a second unit. They just can't
hold it on the road. They can't withstand the fury or the intensity of
the fourth quarter. I'm going to have to change it up a little bit.''With
Bryant sitting on the sideline to start the final period, Los Angeles
allowed Washington to make a game of it. It was quite similar to what
happened in a last-second loss to the Indiana Pacers earlier in the
week.But this time, Los Angeles was able to win, improving to
16-2. The Wizards fell to 3-14 for the first time since the 1966-67
season, when they were known as the Baltimore Bullets."We could be playing much better,'' Bryant said. "Games like this don't sit right with you.''After
banking in a running 12-foot jumper over Caron Butler with 25 seconds
left, Bryant missed the second of two foul shots 10 seconds later,
giving the Wizards a chance for the upset. Butler said he tried to get
in Bryant's head before the free throws."I was messing with
him,'' said Butler, Bryant's teammate for one season in Los Angeles. "I
went and walked up to him and said, 'Man, give me one.'''Up to
then, Bryant was 13-for-13 at the line, but he obliged. Butler dribbled
out most of what was left on the clock before launching a 3-point
attempt over Ariza shortly before the buzzer."It felt real good,'' said Butler, who scored 26 points. "I had no intention of driving it. I was going for the win.''Said Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott: "I'm not going to say I was praying, but I was praying. And the shot looked good.''It
hit off the front of the rim. The ball bounced toward Washington's
Andray Blatche, whose quick tip-in try missed as time expired.Tapscott
was happy to have All-Star forward and co-captain Butler take the final
shot. Tapscott, though, wished Butler had taken it a bit sooner,
leaving a little more time on the clock for a putback."We shot it 2 seconds too late. ... If he squeezes it off 2 seconds earlier, we might still be playing,'' Tapscott said.Told of those comments, Butler disagreed."Nah,
you know, I thought I took it just in time, because - clean look, and
if it went in, game was over. You didn't want it to be one of those
situations in which the shot goes in, you've got a second left, and the
best closer in basketball is at the other end, you know, asking for the
ball,'' Butler said. "So it was like one of those situations - you want
the time to run out and hit the shot and run to the locker room with
your hands up.''Not this time.Bryant, only 5-for-17 from
the field, had plenty of help. Andrew Bynum delivered a season-high 19
points, along with 10 rebounds, and Pau Gasol had 17 points and 10
rebounds - part of a half-dozen Lakers who scored in double figures.Still, the victory did not come easily."We
have to make sure our minds are always in the game, no matter how big
the lead is,'' Gasol said. "We need to make sure we finish things off.
We can't afford to joke around.''Notes: Blatche had 18 points
and 12 rebounds. ... Jackson said four of his players - Bryant, Ariza,
Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar - have a competition going to see who can
accumulate the most steals this season. Jackson isn't necessarily
thrilled, noting that Bryant sometimes "comes away empty-handed, which
compromises our defense.''

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