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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kobe finally makes mark as Lakers edge Thunder

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Bryant had been waiting for a breakout game, the kind of high-scoring effort he's made his reputation on. He got it just in time.

Playing with a broken finger, sore knee and bum ankle, Bryant scored 39 points, carrying the Lakers in the fourth quarter when they lost the lead three times, and Los Angeles beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 95-92 on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.

"What did Mark Twain say? Rumors of my demise or whatever," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who predicted before the game that Bryant would strongly return to form.

Bryant was 13-of-15 from the free throw line, but just 12-of-28 from the floor in front of his dad Joe, who sat next to the Lakers' bench.

"My free throws felt good," Bryant said. "I put in a lot, a lot of work over the last month fine-tuning my stroke and trying to get it back to being consistent."

Beforehand, Jackson said he wanted Bryant to shoot better or take fewer shots. The NBA finals MVP made just 30 percent of his shots over his previous five games, having missed four of the final five of the regular season and hearing all the doubters.

"After 13 years, you'd think they'd know better," Bryant said.

Bryant ran off eight straight points the first time the Lakers fell behind by one, with the referees turning a 3-pointer into a 2-pointer that put them back in front by three.

"He made the tough shots. He got to the free throw line and that's what great players do," said Kevin Durant, who led the Thunder with 32 points but had eight turnovers.

Russell Westbrook added 19, making all eight of his free throws.

The Thunder packed the paint and disrupted Lakers' big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who had combined for 32 points and 25 rebounds in Game 1.

This time, Gasol had 25 points and 12 rebounds, and Bynum six points and 10 boards for the defending champions, who failed to sustain their strong start for the second straight game.

"That was about as well as we can play and we came up a little short," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Two games in a row we gave the effort defensively. We're still trying to figure out how to win these close games."

Celtics 106, Heat 77

In Boston, the Celtics didn't miss Kevin Garnett at all, not the way Glen Davis filled in to lead them over Miami for a 2-0 lead in their playoff series.

With Garnett serving a one-game suspension for elbowing Quentin Richardson in Game 1, Davis started and had 23 points and eight rebounds, going aggressively to the basket to grab missed shots and draw fouls.

Hawks 96, Bucks 86

In Atlanta, Joe Johnson took control in the fourth quarter to finish off a 27-point effort, Josh Smith finished one assist shy of a triple-double and the Hawks ran away from pesky but outmanned Milwaukee.

The Hawks took care of business on their home court. They'll head to Milwaukee on Saturday night with a commanding 2-0 lead, the first time they've won the first two in a best-of-seven series since 1970.

Suns 119, Trail Blazers 90

In Phoenix, Jason Richardson scored 29 points, Grant Hill made 10-of-11 shots for 20, and Phoenix rediscovered its high-energy style to square its first-round playoff series at one game apiece.

Unlike Game 1, Steve Nash pushed the Suns to their preferred tempo from the start and finished with 13 points and 16 assists. Amare Stoudemire scored 18. None of the Suns' starters played in the fourth quarter.

Martell Webster led the Blazers with 16 points. Andre Miller was limited to 12 after getting 31 in Portland's 105-100 victory on Sunday night.



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