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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bryant lead stunning win over the Hawks

Kobe Bryant was the main atraction of the game. The crowd made it clear. And the applause for him continued after the game - in the Hawks' locker room. Bryant, mostly quiet through three quarters, scored nine straight fourth-quarter points to lead Los Angeles to a 90-83 win over Atlanta on Monday night. "You've got to give it to him," said Atlanta's Joe Johnson, who matched Bryant's 27 points but couldn't equal his fourth-quarter impact.

"I have to say that he made some great shots down the stretch, and I was draped all over him for some of them," Johnson honestly admitted.

Indeed, eleven of Bryant's 27 points came in the final period.

"He's a very good player; he's one of the best players who has played our game," said Atlanta coach Mike Woodson. "When he makes a 27-footer, falling away in the corner, you've got to come back on the other end and execute your offence."

As we know, the Hawks were only 4-of-9 from the free throw line in the final part.

And Kobe Bryant said he didn't look at the game as a scoring contest with Joe Johnson.

"To me individually it doesn't mean much at this stage of my career; I've played in so many of those individual battles," Bryant stated. "It's more just, 'What can I do to help us win the match?'

"Maybe some years ago I would have tried to end up with 25 points in the fourth quarter. Now it's not what's important. Once I got on a roll, saw they were double and triple-teaming, I was able to use myself as a decoy."

Furthermore, we must mention that Smush Parker hit a three-pointer after Bryant's nine straight points, and Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom combined for 28 rebounds.

"I think it's a big difference in our team, and that's the understanding of when enough is enough," Lakers coach Phil Jackson admitted. "And when they started throwing extra bodies at people, there was open opportunities for other players."

Kobe wagged his index finger at Atlanta fans after his fourth straight jumper in his hot streak, which left the Lakers with a 77-71 lead. In fact, Bryant didn't need to tease; it seemed most of the 19,600 fans in Atlanta's sixth sellout of the season were cheering for him, anyway.

We must remember that the Lakers, who beat Atlanta 106-95 at home on Dec. 8, completed their first season sweep of the Hawks since the 1999-00 season. Even in recent seasons, when the Hawks bottomed out with 13-and 26-triumph totals, the Lakers managed no better than a split of the two encounters.

ACtually Jackson announced before the game: "This game is a little space in time. I'm always concerned about Atlanta. We don't play well here."

The Lakers didn't play their best early but still led almost from the start. Smith opened the game with a reverse jam - his first of four flashy slam dunks in the match - but the Lakers quickly pulled even on a tip by Bynum and never again trailed.

Kobe Bryant was held to nine points on 3-for-8 shooting in the first part, but the Lakers led 40-31 as Johnson was only 4-for-13 from the field for 10 points.

Los Angeles Lakers, who held a big lead of 11 points late in the first half, led 55-45 in the third quarter before the Hawks responded to that with eight straight points, including a three-pointer by Josh Childress.

And Kobe Bryant hit a three late in the quarter as the Lakers led 62-57 entering the final period. A really good move that decided the match.