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Lakers 107, Oklahoma City 93

Kobe scores 36 points as Lakers defeat Thunder

Bryant scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Lakers (47-10) extend a thin 75-74 edge with 10:31 to play.

February 25, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

OKLAHOMA CITY — On those nights where the Lakers find themselves in a jam on the road, disintegrating in front of a loud crowd that doesn't seem to care about the mediocrity of its own team, there's that one element separating them from almost everybody else.

They have Kobe Bryant on their payroll.

Bryant checked into the game, finally winning a minor battle of wills with Coach Phil Jackson, and guided the Lakers to a 107-93 victory Tuesday over the pesky Oklahoma City Thunder at an impressively raucous Ford Center.

Bryant scored 15 points in the final 9:14, pushing the Lakers from a sketchy 79-77 lead to a fifth consecutive victory.

He finished with 36 points on an efficient 13-for-21 shooting as the Lakers (47-10) improved to 21-6 on the road and maintained their distance over Boston (46-12) and Cleveland (44-11) in the hunt for the league's best record.

To some, it's old hat, almost cliche: Bryant wins game with late burst.

But Derek Fisher, who has played with Bryant for most of his 13-year career, still derives some enjoyment out of it.

"He doesn't really do anything that amazes me any more but it's just fun to observe, even as a teammate, his ability to just make his mind up -- 'OK, this is what I'm going to go do,' " Fisher said. "I don't know if there's anybody in our game than can consistently match that ability. I know I'm biased, but it's impressive to me."

The Lakers' 18-point lead in the second quarter had been trimmed to 10 when Bryant checked out with 2:40 left in the third quarter.

Bryant then became increasingly antsy on the bench as the Thunder (13-44) stormed back, closing to within two points by the time he re-entered with 9:17 to play.

He wanted to check in earlier in the fourth quarter, but Jackson wanted him to conserve strength.

"I just had to get up and check myself in," Bryant said. "One thing we don't want to do here is get the crowd going. The crowd got going, got them into the game, and with a young team, they feed off of that. I just couldn't wait any longer. I had to go in and try to stop that momentum a little bit."

Said Jackson: "I didn't want him to have to spend that much time on the floor, but the game kept getting stinkier as it went along. He went in, hit the first shot he got and was very confident from then on."

Bryant bailed the Lakers out of a tense game two weeks ago against the Thunder with a 34-point effort in a 105-98 home victory.

His performance was even more marked Tuesday in front of the college-like atmosphere provided by the Thunder fans.

He nailed a 17-footer three seconds after re-entering. Then came two free throws, a 14-foot fade-away after getting fouled, a layup off a post move, a 17-footer as he drifted left, and a reason for Lakers fans to hold their breath, not in a good way.

He went up for a layup attempt and landed off-balance after being fouled by Jeff Green with 4:01 to play. He grabbed his right ankle and stayed down for several seconds but returned after a timeout. He even shared a private laugh with longtime trainer Gary Vitti on the sideline before play resumed. He made one of two free throws to give the Lakers a 96-86 lead.

"I've got ankle insurance, so I'm fine," quipped Bryant, who made five of six shots in the fourth quarter.

Bryant now has 23,200 career points, passing Adrian Dantley (23,177 points) for 19th all-time on a 16-footer with 8:11 left in the third quarter.

Pau Gasol remained a triple threat, finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Fisher had 12 points, including two late jump shots for some breathing room.

The game had the feel of a clear-the-bench opportunity as early as the second quarter, when the Lakers took a 47-29 lead, but the Thunder gradually fought back and trailed, 75-68, going into the fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant gave the Lakers fits, finishing with 32 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, but Bryant, not Durant, was the one with the fourth quarter to remember.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Two-year plan

Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant's first two seasons:

*--* ROOKIE SEASON Player Min Reb Ast Pts FG% Bryant 15.5 1.9 1.3 7.6 41.7 Durant 34.6 4.4 2.4 20.3 43.0 SECOND SEASON Player Min Reb Ast Pts FG% Bryant 26.0 3.1 2.5 15.4 42.8 Durant 40.0 6.7 2.9 26.3 48.6 *--*

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You're next, Chief

Bryant moved into 19th place on the NBA career scoring list Tuesday. Active players are shaded:

*--* RK PLAYER POINTS 1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 38,387 2 Karl Malone 36,928 3 Michael Jordan 32,292 4 Wilt Chamberlain 31,419 5 Moses Malone 27,409 6 Elvin Hayes 27,313 7 Shaquille O'Neal 27,119 8 Hakeem Olajuwon 26,946 9 Oscar Robertson 26,710 10 Dominique Wilkins 26,668 11 John Havlicek 26,395 12 Alex English 25,613 13 Reggie Miller 25,279 14 Jerry West 25,192 15 Patrick Ewing 24,815 16 Allen Iverson 23,958 17 Charles Barkley 23,757 18 Robert Parish 23,334 19 Kobe Bryant 23,200 20 Adrian Dantley 23,177 *--*

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Sources: Los Angeles Times and NBA.com

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Los Angeles Times

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