Tuesday , Apr , 20 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Kobe drops 36; LA takes 2-0 series lead

=== Kobe drops 36; LA takes 2-0 series lead ===

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – Kobe Bryant scored 22 of his 36 points in
the second half, including 17 in the third quarter, as the Los Angeles Lakers
rolled to a 98-84 victory over Houston at the Staples Center to take a 2-0
lead in their first-round playoff series.

Karl Malone added 17 points in the win, and the Los Angeles bench outscored
Houston’s by a 32-15 margin.

Shaquille O’Neal, who scored the go-ahead basket in Game 1 on a two-handed
dunk with 16.4 seconds remaining, had a playoff career-low seven points in
this one. He played just 33 minutes because of foul trouble.

Houston was led by Steve Francis, who posted a triple-double with 18 points,
12 assists and 10 rebounds. Yao Ming added 21 points and Jim Jackson scored
19, but they combined for just 13 in the second half.

“He was a presence in the first half, we couldn’t let him be a presence in the
second half,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Yao, who scored 14 before the
break on 5-of-12 shooting.

Game 3 of this best-of-seven series is scheduled for Friday in Houston.

The Lakers took control of the game with a 13-4 burst that spanned the third
and fourth quarters. Bryant scored eight points during the surge, and Kareem
Rush capped it two minutes into the fourth with a three-pointer to make it
79-66.

During the burst, Bryant posted six unanswered points to end the third
quarter. He converted three free throws to give the Lakers a 74-64 advantage
heading into the fourth — a 12-point turnaround from LA’s 46-44 halftime
deficit.

“I think Kobe’s shooting far too much,” Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said
afterwards, tongue-in-cheek. “Just so everybody knows, I think it’s the root
evil of all problems. He should really think more team and pass.”

Bryant later sealed the win on a three-pointer to give the Lakers a 96-80 lead
with 2:20 remaining in the game. The Lakers led by as many as 17 points
several times before that, including 89-72 on O’Neal’s bucket inside the 5:00
mark.

LA scored 12 more points behind the arc than did Houston. Derek Fisher made
both of his three-point attempts to tie Michael Cooper’s franchise record for
playoff threes (124).

The Rockets trailed throughout the first half until Jackson gave them a 46-44
lead heading into the break.

They ended the first two quarters on a pair of impressive runs, keeping pace
with a Lakers team which looked at times to be on the verge of pulling away
early. A 13-8 burst to end the first quarter got Houston within 23-22 after it
had trailed by six midway through.

Los Angeles then led by as many as eight points in the second, but O’Neal was
benched with three fouls and the Rockets ended the half with a 16-6 surge for
their halftime edge.

Yao had 14 first half points and Jackson scored 13 for Houston, which shot 46
percent before the break with a six-point advantage in the paint.

O’Neal played just 14 first half minutes with two points and four rebounds.
Bryant scored 14 to lead the Lakers, hitting on three of his seven field goal
attempts and eight of nine tries at the line. LA shot just 39 percent before
intermission.

HOU LAL