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Lakers finally find a team they can beat — the feeble Wizards

L.A. ends four-game skid with 102-96 win over Washington, at 3-17 the NBA's worst team. But it isn't pretty, as Kobe Bryant shoots 9 for 29 and plays 44 minutes.

December 14, 2012|By Mike Bresnahan
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WASHINGTON — Kobe Bryant recently said he wanted to play against the Washington Generals, desperate for a victory as the Lakers' losses kept piling up.

He got the next best thing Friday.

The Lakers beat the Washington Wizards, a carnival of a team and surely the NBA's worst, 102-96, at Verizon Center.

It wasn't easy, one team employee saying it felt like "climbing Mt. Everest" just to slip past the Wizards, now 3-17 and headed for a prime location in the draft lottery.

The Lakers took it, even though it meant another 44 minutes for Bryant, continued over-reliance on the three-point shot, and bailout stats provided by Jodie Meeks (24 points).

Bryant has totaled 44, 44, 41, 43, 44 in his last five games, which is fine if they're points. But they're minutes.

Coach Mike D'Antoni doesn't think he has a choice with a 34-year-old who has battled back spasms.

"I told him they'll put a statue of him at Staples [Center] but it might be literally me riding him to death," D'Antoni said. "They might just take him off the floor and bronze him right there.

"So be it. We need a win. As soon as we get some guys back, we can watch his minutes hopefully. I'm not promising anything."

Bryant had 30 points but needed 29 shots to get there, making only nine (31% accuracy). He was particularly poor from three-point range, making one of eight.

His way to compensate for the Lakers' offensive struggles is obvious — launch a ton of three-point attempts.

He hasn't shot this often from long distance in a four-game span since also hoisting 37 three-point attempts during a March 2008 run.

The Lakers (10-14) improved to 3-8 on the road, though everybody has an opinion on their woes, including Shaquille O'Neal.

"Kobe will trust you for the first two quarters," he said Thursday on TNT. "If you don't have the look in your eye, he will take over the game."

Added TNT analyst Kenny Smith: "Winning basketball is all about trust. There is no trust."

The increasingly vocal Magic Johnson had apparently seen enough, saying he would not tweet again about the Lakers "until they win three in a row!"

See you in January, Earvin. Maybe February, at this rate.

Cartier Martin had 21 points for Washington, which went without injured John Wall, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker and A.J. Price.

The Lakers obviously have their injuries too — Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and, now, Jordan Hill, the latest to be sidelined (back spasms). So, with Gasol (knee tendinitis) missing his seventh straight game, Devin Ebanks started at power forward and had eight points.

The Lakers led by only three after Nene made two free throws with 5:31 to play, but the Wizards came no closer.

Bryant flew in from the top of the key and scored a left-handed tip-in after Dwight Howard missed a free-throw attempt with 1:21 left. It gave the Lakers a 102-93 edge.

Howard (12 points, 14 rebounds) said he worked with Bryant on the free-throw play at a recent practice, even naming it after his jersey number: "12 miss."

Chris Duhon, Nash's replacement as starting point guard, was laughing as reporters entered the locker room.

"That's one win," he said loudly. "One more is called a winning streak."

The Lakers could finally exhale. Maybe?

"We're not even close," D'Antoni said. "We're not close to being a good team. Can you build on it? Yeah, I hope so."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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