Lakers hang on to defeat Wizards

The Baltimore Sun

Kobe Bryant's first field-goal attempt, officially, came about five minutes into last 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," said Bryant, who had 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson's assessment?

"Poor coaching," he said. "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."

Los Angeles improved 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.

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.' "

Butler dribbled out most of what was left on the clock before launching a three-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."

Tapscott was happy to have All-Star forward and co-captain Butler take the final shot but wished Butler had taken it a bit sooner.

"We shot it two seconds too late. ... If he squeezes it off two seconds earlier, we might still be playing," Tapscott said.

Celtics 93, Trail Blazers 78:: Ray Allen scored 19 points to lead host Boston to its 11th straight win.

Hawks 98, Knicks 95: : Marvin Williams scored 18 points for host Atlanta New York's Al Harrington scored 27 points.

Magic 98, Thunder 89: : Dwight Howard had 21 points and 23 rebounds for host Orlando.

Cavaliers 97, Pacers 73:: LeBron James scored a season-low 11 points for host Cleveland.

Nets 113, Timberwolves 84: : Vince Carter scored 18 points for New Jersey. Randy Foye led visiting Minnesota with 20 points.

Grizzlies 93, Clippers 81: : Rudy Gay (Archbishop Spalding) scored 25 points to help host Memphis end a seven-game losing streak.

76ers 96, Pistons 91: : Donyell Marshall's three-pointer with 35 seconds helped lift visiting Philadelphia.

Rockets 131, Warriors 112: : Yao Ming scored a season-high 33 points for host Houston.

Bucks 101, Bobcats 96: : Michael Redd scored 25 points for host Milwaukee.

Off the court

Jurisprudence: : Former NBA player Corie Blount was charged with picking up 11 pounds of marijuana in southwest Ohio. Blount, 39, was charged with felony drug possession.

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