Bryant scores 33 as O'Neal, Olowokandi battle


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers were stuck on 66 for
six minutes. Once they got unstuck, it was all over for the Los
Angeles Clippers.

Kobe Bryant scored 14 of his 33 points in the final 6:19 Friday
night as the two-time defending NBA champions rallied for a 98-92
victory over the rapidly-improving Clippers.

The Clippers scored 17 consecutive points at the end of the third
quarter and beginning of the fourth for a 76-66 lead -- holding the
Lakers scoreless for exactly six minutes.

The Lakers then outscored them 32-16 to finish the game.

"Our defense stepped up a little bit and we started scoring
some points," Bryant said.

The victory was the fourth in a row and 11th in 13 games for the
Lakers (46-18), who moved into a tie with the Sacramento Kings for
NBA's best record with 18 games remaining.

In losing for just the second time in nine games, the Clippers
(34-32) had their season-high four-game winning streak snapped and
dropped 1½ games behind Utah in the race for the final Western
Conference playoff berth.

When asked about the facing the Clippers in the opening round of
the playoffs -- a distinct possibility -- Bryant replied: "It'd be
fun. I think it would be great for the city. It would be a
challenge. They're getting there, they're a good team."

Shaquille O'Neal had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Rick Fox
added 12 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Lakers.

Quentin Richardson scored 22 points; Elton Brand had 18 points
and 12 rebounds -- his 11th consecutive double-double -- and Darius
Miles had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers.

O'Neal and Clippers center Michael Olowokandi, who had four
points and 14 rebounds, were ejected with 19 seconds remaining
after exchanging words and being hit with their second
double-technical of the game.

O'Neal wasn't around to comment afterward, but Olowokandi had
plenty to say.

"Maybe he's used to people backing down from him, that's not
going to happen over here," Olowokandi said. "He said I was being
too aggressive trying to box him out, but how aggressive can you
get against a guy that weighs 360, 370 pounds?

"He said I was bowing him, or whatever, but he does the same
thing to everybody, he does the same thing to me. He hits me in the
back all the time and I don't complain. I don't say anything. Then
he gets hit, he wants to cry and he wants to whine. He needs to
grow up."

Lakers forward Robert Horry, who had 10 points, five rebounds
and five assists, said he believes Olowokandi, who shot only
1-for-10, was frustrated.

"That's all it is," Horry said. "Shaq wasn't really into it,
Olowokandi was the one who was woofin."

Bryant scored five consecutive points and Derek Fisher made a
3-pointer to cap a 21-4 run and give the Lakers an 87-80 lead with
3:10 remaining, and the Clippers weren't closer than five points
after that.

The Clippers had scored the final 12 points of the third quarter
and first five of the fourth for their 10-point lead.

"Their best player beat us, we can't let that happen,"
Clippers coach Alvin Gentry said. "We've got to have someone else
step up out there. We've got to get to Kobe in those situations, he
lives for those situations."

Slava Medvedenko's jumper with 8:41 left ended the Clippers'

After two free throws by Brand, the Lakers scored 11 consecutive points for a 79-78 lead with six minutes left, and they went ahead
for good shortly thereafter.

Fox scored seven points and O'Neal and Bryant had six each
during a 19-10 run to start the second half, giving the Lakers a
62-51 lead -- the largest of the game for either team.

It was 66-59 before the Clippers began their 17-0 run.

Medvedenko and Bryant scored five points each as the Lakers went
on a 13-4 run to finish the first quarter and start the second for
a 23-17 lead.

Miles and Bryant alternated baskets in the final 3½ minutes of
the second quarter, scoring three each until Bryant fed Fox for a
3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left.

But Miles made a running 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the
Lakers' lead to 43-41 at halftime. It was Miles' third 3-pointer in
17 attempts this season.

Game notes
O'Neal didn't start due an upset stomach, sitting out the
first 3:54 of play. ... The Lakers went 3-1 against the Clippers
this season and are 18-2 in the series in the last five years. ...
The Clippers signed Tremaine Fowlkes for the rest of the season.
Fowlkes, whose second 10-day contract expired Thursday, has started
the past nine games -- seven of them victories. ... The Lakers activated
Samaki Walker, who had started the team's first 50 games before
missing 13 due to a hyperextended right elbow. To make room, they
placed Jelani McCoy on the injured list with a bone bruise on his
right foot. ... The Clippers, over .500 this late in a season for
the first time in 10 years, haven't had a five-game winning streak
since early in the 1995-96 season.