Late shot gives Bryant eighth straight 40-point game


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The clock almost ran out on Kobe Bryant's
amazing scoring streak.

Bryant hit a 17-foot running jumper with 9 seconds remaining to
reach 40 points for the eighth consecutive game as the Los Angeles
Lakers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 92-84 Friday night.

The last player to score 40 in as many consecutive games was
Michael Jordan, who did it in nine straight early in the 1986-87
season. Wilt Chamberlain scored at least 40 in 14 consecutive games
early in the 1961-62 season.

Asked if he'll cool off anytime soon, Bryant said, "I have no
idea. I just bounce from game to game. Now I'll prepare for Seattle
(on Sunday).''

Bryant was 15-of-32 from the field, and Lakers coach Phil
Jackson noticed some of Bryant's big misses in the fourth quarter --
including a 3-pointer with the Lakers down one point and a
15-footer with them ahead by five.

"There were a few poor shots. He's going to have some of those
that he thinks he can still make because he has that belief,''
Jackson said. "But there were six or seven (forced shots) that
were in that range that was questionable, and we talked a little
about that after the game.''

But Jackson wasn't a total scrooge.

"I was happy when he got his 40th point, even if it wasn't
meaningful to win the game, it was still nice to see,'' he said.

It was Bryant's 12th game in a row with at least 35 points.

Shaquille O'Neal added 24 points and 12 rebounds in his first
game back after sitting out three straight because of a sore left
knee and right big toe. He shot 7-of-10 on free throws in the
fourth quarter as the Lakers beat Portland for the fifth straight
time at Staples Center.

"I feel good,'' said O'Neal, who said he received a painkilling
shot before the game. "The true test is tomorrow, but I'll be all
right. I'll just suck it up.''

Bonzi Wells scored 25 points and Rasheed Wallace added 23 points
for the Blazers, who had won three straight overall and three in a
row on the road, where they were playing for the first time in 2{

"I feel like our offense beat us. I feel like we took a lot of
quick shots and a lot of threes and that was part of the reason we
put ourselves in the hole,'' Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said.
"We were good for three and a half quarters, but our offense

Bryant was stuck on 38 points for much of the game's final three
minutes. With the clock running down, he stood and dribbled the
ball near the top of the key, passed it off, then got it back,
ducked Pippen and sank the runner to keep his scoring streak alive.

"Robert (Horry) was looking at me with his hand out, giving me
the signal to pass it to him and he'd get it right back. It worked
out nice,'' Bryant said.

Wells and Ruben Patterson took turns defending Bryant.

"Everyone had their hands in Kobe's face. My mama had a hand in
his face and he still hit it,'' Wells said of Bryant's final shot.
"Kobe is playing at an unbelievable level and hitting big shots. I
feel like I am an all right defender and Ruben is an all right
defender, and he still made us feel like we were no defenders.''

Bryant had 25 points by halftime, having taken 20 of the Lakers'
43 field-goal attempts.

O'Neal was especially energetic in the fourth, scoring six of
the Lakers' final eight points. The Blazers didn't make a field
goal in the final 3:28, including Wallace's second airball of the

"I got a couple rebounds, hit a couple free throws,'' O'Neal
said. "I saw that the team was down. We all stepped it up a bit.''

Wells scored Portland's first six points of the fourth for a
73-68 lead. The teams exchanged leads, with neither ahead by more
than three points until the final two minutes.

Game notes
The Blazers are one of just five teams with winning road
records this season, although the loss dropped them out of a tie
with Dallas for the most road wins. The Mavericks won their 19th
road game Friday against Houston. ... The Lakers lead the season
series 2-1.