Kobe Follows Up 61 With 36

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

TORONTO (AP) - Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers warmed up
for their showdown in Boston with a victory over Toronto.

Kobe Bryant scored 36 points, Pau Gasol added 31 points and 15 rebounds and the Lakers beat the Toronto Raptors 115-107 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight victory and eighth in nine games.

"We got it going a little bit more," said Bryant, who scored 10 points in the fourth to help the Lakers outscore Toronto 30-20 in the final frame. "We obviously picked up our energy a little bit. It felt like the first three quarters, we didn't have the pop we needed to. In the fourth quarter it seemed to be there for us."

Lamar Odom had 13 points, and Derek Fisher added 12 for the Lakers, set to play the Celtics on Thursday night in their first trip to Boston since losing the NBA finals.

"It wasn't a fun night, that's for sure," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, recalling the Game 6 loss last June that gave the Celtics the title.

Gasol looks back just as distastefully.

"It's not a good memory," he said. "Hopefully we'll be able to change that."

After that, the Lakers head to Cleveland for a Sunday matchup with LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

"It's a good test for us, these two games coming up," Gasol. "They're going to be extremely hard, in hostile places and we're going to have to overcome that and show out identity out there."

Toronto lost its fourth straight, but didn't go quietly. Joey Graham had a career-high 24 points, and Jermaine O'Neal added 22 points and nine blocks. Andrea Bargnani scored 21 points, and Anthony Parker had 18 for the Raptors, 5-21 overall against the Lakers.

"We probably gave more than we would have liked to," Fisher said. "The Raptors played a solid game, they had a lot of guys contributing. I think we have enough gas in the tank to figure out
how to win (Thursday)."

Toronto All-Star Chris Bosh left the game with 8:50 remaining in
the fourth because of a sprained right knee. Bosh, who had 12
points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes, was taken to a hospital
for tests.

The Raptors also played without point guard Jose Calderon, who
sat out with a sore right hamstring. It's the same injury that kept
him out of 10 games in January and two in November. Parker moved
over to point guard with Graham starting at shooting guard.

Los Angeles had never led by more than two and trailed 87-85 to
begin the fourth, but took its first lead since the second quarter
on Bryant's jumper with 6:27 left.

"From there it seemed like the momentum was really on our side
and we were able to finish the game after that," Fisher said.

Toronto trailed by seven with just over a minute left, but Parker made a 3-pointer and Graham followed Bryant's miss with a layup to cut it to two, at 107-105.

But Graham failed to convert the 3-point play, and Bryant responded with a jumper in the lane, then a pair of free throws, to push the lead to six.

"It says a lot about the level he's playing at right now," Fisher said. "He's leading our team and we need him at this point."

Bryant set a Madison Square Garden record by scoring 61 points
in a 126-117 victory over New York on Monday night. His career high
of 81 came in a home victory over Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006, and he
came in averaging 28 points in 21 career games against the Raptors.

"He had moments where he looked like he was going to be really
hot in the first half," Jackson said. "Then I put him on the bench for a rest and when he came back nothing seemed to go for him for a little bit. He carried us in that third quarter and got things going and then down the stretch, made the plays."

The Raptors started brightly, leading 21-9 after Parker completed a four-point play on Odom's foul at 6:33 of the first. But the Lakers stormed back behind four 3-pointers, including three from Bryant, cutting it to 23-21 3 minutes later. Bryant had 14 points in the opening quarter, but Toronto led 31-26 after one.

"We were out of synch right off the bat," Jackson said. "We had to fuss to get that game."

Bryant missed all five shots he took in the second, while O'Neal had 11 and Bosh eight to give Toronto a 63-58 lead at the half.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-02-04-09 2347EST


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