Thursday , Mar , 04 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Los Angeles Lakers Team Report – March 4

=== Los Angeles Lakers Team Report – March 4 ===

(Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant hit the game-winning shot with 31.7 seconds
left to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 96-93 win over the Houston Rockets on
Wednesday at the Toyota Center.

Shaquille O’Neal scored 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Lakers,
who have won three of their last four games. O’Neal was 13-of-18 from the
field, but made only 2-of-13 free throws.

Bryant missed Tuesday night’s loss against Atlanta due to a court appearance
in Colorado for his pending sexual assault case, but showed no ill-effects
from the layoff. The All-Star guard ended with 18 points, 13 assists and eight
rebounds.

Gary Payton scored 14 points in the win.

Los Angeles was down nine after three quarters and got within six points at
75-69 on Kareem Rush’s three-pointer early in the final period. However, the
Rockets built their advantage back to double-digits at 81-71 on Steve Francis’
slam dunk with 8:14 left in the game.

The Lakers then reeled off 13 straight points, capped by two free throws by
Bryant, to claim an a 84-81 lead with 4:26 left in the game. During the 13-0
spurt, O’Neal scored five points and Derek Fisher added a three-pointer.

Houston finally put an end to its long scoreless drought and countered with
four straight points to regain the advantage at 85-84. However, Luke Walton
responded with a three-pointer to give LA a two-point lead with 3:20 left.

The game stayed nip-and-tuck and Payton’s three-pointer with 1:27 left in the
fourth snapped a tie game and gave the Lakers a 92-89 edge. Francis then hit
two free throws with 58.3 seconds remaining to make it a one-point contest and
after a Los Angeles turnover, Jim Jackson’s jumper from the right corner gave
the Rockets a 93-92 lead.

Bryant answered with a fade-away jumper over Yao Ming with 31.7
seconds remaining to put the Lakers back ahead by one point. Yao’s long
jumper with just over 10 seconds left clanked off the back rim and the ball
shot out to Fisher and he was fouled with 9.8 seconds to play.

Fisher netted both free throws to put the Lakers ahead 96-93 and Cuttino
Mobley’s three-pointer as the buzzer sounded rolled out.

O’Neal has scored in double digits in 18 straight games. He has averaged 25.5
points and 10.5 rebounds in his last two games.

The Lakers are off until Friday when they host Ray Allen and the Seattle
SuperSonics. This will be the third meeting of the season between the two
teams, as each club has picked up a win on its homecourt.

LAL