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LAKERS

Lamar Odom to play for Lakers in Houston

After sitting out three games, the forward will return to the lineup, but guard Sasha Vujacic is still home because of back spasms.

January 14, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

HOUSTON — So much of the script was new and unusual, as if it had been ripped apart during a tumultuous writers' meeting.

But there remained a solitary constant.

Kobe Bryant again unfurled a memorable fourth quarter, scoring 13 points and putting a final dent in the Houston Rockets with a late, long three-pointer in a 105-100 victory Tuesday at Toyota Center.

Bryant had been shooting poorly, to say the least, but there he was with 27.4 seconds left, making a 27-footer over Shane Battier as the shot clock wound down, the final three of his 33 points as the Lakers won the first of back-to-back games in Texas.

Sporting a white bandage over his right eye, the result of a four-stitch wound after a collision with Dwyane Wade two days earlier, Bryant was the face of the Lakers -- banged up but not knocked out.

It was a well-known ending after an unusual plot twist for the Lakers.

They didn't blow any large leads. Nor did they blow anybody out.

Instead, they never led by more than two, and trailed by as many as nine, going into the fourth quarter.

It was a patient victory, particularly for Bryant, who made only eight of 23 shots through three quarters.

"I got some pretty good looks and I knew what the defense was doing. It was just my responsibility to put the ball in the hole," said Bryant, whose 32 shots were a season high. "When the fourth quarter came around, I had to focus even more to put the ball in."

So that final three-pointer, the one that gave the Lakers the lead for good, 102-100, must have just rolled smoothly off his fingertips?

"That last shot felt like it was off left, and it went in," he said. "Go figure."

The Lakers (31-6) figured to be in for a rough night with three players out, though the Rockets also had plenty of aches and pains.

Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and reserve guard Luther Head all sat out because of various injuries, more than countering the Lakers' injury list of Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic.

Lamar Odom had 10 points and four assists after missing three games because of a bone bruise. He also found a way to categorize Bryant's last shot.

"If you're going to be the best on the planet, we expect him to be amazing and awesome, and that's what he is," Odom said. "So I guess we're spoiled because we expect those kinds of shots to go in."

The Lakers were almost undone by one of their former draft picks, Von Wafer, a second-rounder in 2005 who spent one unremarkable season with the team before being free to go wherever the NBA winds took him.

But Wafer, who also played for the Clippers, Denver and Portland, not to mention two Development League teams, scored a career-high 23 points against the Lakers, making three of four shots from three-point range.

Luckily for the Lakers, they also had a guy who could make a three-pointer.

Still, the Rockets had a chance to tie the score, inbounding the ball near their basket after a timeout with 7.5 seconds left and trailing, 103-100.

All they could muster was Yao Ming's 16-foot attempt with 1.8 seconds left -- read: not a three-pointer -- that wouldn't have mattered much even if it had gone in.

It didn't, and the Lakers were victorious, raising their road mark to 11-4.

"It's a good game for us to have, particularly after having a lot of home games," Bryant said.

"We just seemed to hang in there. We had a lot of patience, a lot of poise. We kept it close and were able to steal it."

The Lakers are 7-1 in the second game of back-to-back situations, though tonight's game in San Antonio won't be easy.

"Now it's time to go to another tough environment," Bryant said, "and see if we can make the game a little less exciting."

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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Tonight's game

LAKERS AT

SAN ANTONIO

6 PST, Channel 9, ESPN

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