Final / 2OT

Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 11/17

Game 1: Sunday, November 17th
Game 2: Friday, January 17th
Game 3: Tuesday, February 18th
Game 4: Wednesday, March 26th

Rockets 99


Lakers 106

(27-25, 17-10 home)

    Coverage: FSW

    7:30 PM ET, February 18, 2003

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 OT 2OT T
    HOU 16 26 14 26 9 899
    LAL 25 16 23 18 9 15106

    Top Performers

    Hou: Y. Ming 24 Pts, 14 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk

    LAL: K. Bryant 52 Pts, 8 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 Blk

    Bryant scores 52 in 54 minutes despite sore knee

    LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shaq-Yao II didn't materialize, so it was left to Kobe Bryant to provide the entertainment.

    He didn't disappoint.

    Kobe Bryant

    Bryant scored a season-high 52 points to make it 10 consecutive games with 35 or more -- and a franchise-record six straight with at least 40 -- as the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Houston Rockets 106-99 in double overtime Tuesday night.

    Bryant had all nine of his team's points in the first overtime and eight in the second extra period, leaving him one shy of the NBA season-high of 53 scored by New York's Allan Houston in a 117-110 victory over the Lakers on Sunday night.

    Playing on a sore right knee, Bryant shot 19-of-38 -- including 3-of-9 from 3-point range -- and made all 11 of his free throws.

    "Hurting,'' he said when asked how his knee felt. "Oh, it was killing me. I play around it. I just try to be a little creative.''

    For good measure, Bryant also had eight rebounds and seven assists while playing a career-high 54 minutes.

    "He must not have been hurting that bad,'' Houston's Cuttino Mobley said. "I don't know. Some people just have the will to win and he had it.''

    Shaquille O'Neal sat out the game with knee and toe injuries and Houston rookie Yao Ming fouled out in the first overtime after recording 24 points and 14 rebounds.

    Of O'Neal's absence, Yao said through an interpreter: "I figured we could be a little more relaxed without him on the court. Maybe next time Kobe won't play.''

    That drew a laugh from reporters.

    Mark Madsen's dunk with 3:57 left put the Lakers ahead for good, and Bryant added another dunk with 2:46 remaining to make it 97-94.

    Derek Fisher scored the next five points to give the Lakers an eight-point lead with 1:49 to play, and the Rockets were unable to pose a serious threat after that.

    By winning, the Lakers moved into a tie with the Rockets for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. Both teams have 27-25 records with 30 remaining.

    Houston would have clinched the tiebreaker with a victory.

    O'Neal will also miss Wednesday night's game in Utah.

    "We think he'll be ready Friday,'' coach Phil Jackson said before what he called the Lakers' biggest game since they last played the Rockets on Jan. 17.

    The three-time defending NBA champions are 23-15 with O'Neal and 4-10 without him.

    Rick Fox added 15 points and Fisher scored 13 for the Lakers.

    But the star was Bryant. Again.

    "There's nothing more to say,'' Jackson said afterward. "It was a great effort. It was almost too much.''

    Jackson said he wasn't worried about Bryant running out of gas.

    "He has plenty of that,'' the coach said. "It was his knee. He was still willing to play and willing to take all the shots and more. I was worried about his defense.''

    Steve Francis shot 4-of-19 while scoring 17 points for the Rockets. Maurice Taylor and Mobley each had 16 for Houston, which lost for the fifth time in six games.

    Francis scored a career-high 44 points in Houston's 108-104 overtime victory over the Lakers last month.

    He was angry after this game.

    "They're the champions, they're going to get all the calls when the game is on the line,'' he said.

    Bryant made two free throws with 51.1 seconds left in the first overtime and a short turnaround jumper with 19.7 seconds to play that tied the game at 91.

    Mobley missed a driving shot at the buzzer, sending the game into a second overtime.

    Robert Horry's 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Lakers a 82-79 lead.

    But Taylor made a free throw with 1:32 left, and Yao made two more with 8.3 seconds to go after rebounding Mobley's miss to tie it at 82.

    Bryant missed a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer, forcing the first overtime.

    Game notes

    The Rockets activated F Glen Rice and placed C Jason Collier on the injured list. Sidelined four weeks with an injured left shoulder, Rice smiled and said it was "strictly coincidence'' he was returning to action against Los Angeles. He was a starter on the Lakers' championship team of three years ago. He had five points in 35 minutes. ... The Rockets are 4-10 since beating the Lakers on Jan. 17 -- the only time O'Neal and Yao have played against each other. ... Michael Jordan was the last to score 35 or more in 10 straight games, doing so in the 1986-87 season. ... Tiger Woods, entered in the PGA event in the area later this week, watched the game from a front-row seat.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 99 106
    FGM-FGA 36-97 (.371) 41-93 (.441)
    3PM-3PA 4-16 (.250) 7-22 (.318)
    FTM-FTA 23-32 (.719) 17-20 (.850)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 21-56 11-41
    Assists 20 26
    Turnovers 18 12
    Steals 6 6
    Blocks 4 9
    Fast Break Points 2 5
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 27 (0/0) 33 (0/0)

    Top Performers

    Los Angeles
    Yao Ming Ming
    Points: 24
    Reb: 14
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1
    Kobe Bryant Bryant
    Points: 52
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 7
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 3