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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

L.A. role players play big part in triumph

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) As great as Kobe Bryant is, one player wasn't going to beat the Orlando Magic.

LeBron James learned that lesson. Bryant didn't have to.

He had plenty of help in the NBA finals, with four teammates scoring in double figures in the 99-86 Game 5 victory Sunday that gave the Lakers a 15th championship.

Bryant scored 30 points and was the finals MVP, but he wouldn't be lofting any trophies without the help he got from a solid but unspectacular group that turned out to be the perfect support for him.

"I think as teammates we understand what kind of player he is, what he brings to the table, and we try to complement each other," Pau Gasol said. "I think what we've been doing well this year is understanding what our roles were, what our abilities are out there as individuals and make it work as a team. It really worked out well. I think we all understood how to play this game together and to take us to this championship."

It was last year in Los Angeles' humiliating loss to Boston in Game 6 that coach Phil Jackson had to leave Bryant on the court longer than usual in the first half, with no other Lakers able to get anything going.

This time, everyone but Bryant had it going during the decisive second quarter.

With the Lakers trailing 40-36 midway through the period, Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza hit 3s, and after a jumper by Bryant, Ariza made another 3 for a 47-40 lead.

Bryant averaged more than seven assists in the series, confident when he gave the ball up his teammates would do something good with it.

"Kobe was the thrust that created shots for guys and the opportunities for guys on the floor," Jackson said. "That was really our chance, and we said at halftime, we get another opportunity like that, we have this game in hand if we can just crack one more three-minute span like that and create some turnovers and run outs and do it again. Kobe said, 'I'll push the guys and I'll find guys if you guys run the court.' "

The Showtime Lakers of the '80s were loaded with star power, and their championship teams in this decade were led by Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

Only one superstar on this team, but plenty of help for him.

Just what Bryant needed.

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