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Lakers put together consecutive road wins

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- When he was playing in Miami, Caron
Butler stayed up late after games to watch Kobe Bryant's oncourt
magic in Los Angeles. But Butler hadn't seen it in person since
joining the Lakers in the offseason.

"I was like, 'Now that I'm over here, I want to see some of
that," Butler said.

Bryant certainly obliged Saturday night, scoring 21
fourth-quarter points and hitting a long jumper with 0.9 seconds
left in the Lakers' 117-116 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

Bryant finished with 32 points and nine assists for the Lakers,
who trailed much of the way against the expansion Bobcats. Bryant
finished 12-for-24 from the field, including 8-for-12 in the final
quarter, and hit his first game-winner of the season.

"I feel like if I can raise up and get a good look, it's a good
shot," Bryant said. "When you get in a rhythm and all of a sudden
the pressure comes, I feel like the basket gets even wider. It's
just one of those things. It's a lot easier to make a shot when the
pressure's on than it is in the first quarter, sometimes."

Los Angeles has won consecutive road wins for the first time
this season -- a modest streak that comes at a good time. The Lakers
beat Dallas on Thursday night in the first game of a six-game road
trip, and followed that with a needed victory in a tight Western
Conference race.

"I told them that before the game," Lakers coach Frank Hamblen
said of the team's struggles on the road. "For a playoff team,
this has to stop."

Bryant put an end to that, and extended the Bobcats' recent
losing streak in frustrating fashion.

Charlotte appeared ready to end its five-game skid, leading by
10 points with about 7 minutes left on the way to tying its
season-high with 116 points.

The Bobcats also got a pair of strong performances from Brevin
Knight and Emeka Okafor. Knight, back in the lineup after missing
three games with a sprained ankle, had 21 points and 17 assists
with no turnovers.

Okafor had a career-high 30 points and 11 rebounds, but Bryant
had the last word.

"The way he was rolling down the stretch, he could've closed
his eyes, threw the ball up and it would have went in," said Keith
Bogans, who had the unenviable task of trying to stop Bryant late
in the game.

After struggling to 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting through three
periods, Bryant hit six straight shots -- including three 3-pointers
-- to help the Lakers cut a 10-point lead to 110-108 on a jumper
over Bogans with 2:45 left in the game.

Then, after closing to 116-115 on a tip-in by Jumaine Jones with
31 seconds left, the Lakers got the ball back with the chance to
win it. Bryant did the rest, taking the ball near midcourt and
dribbling toward the top of the key. He pump-faked, sending Bogans
into the air, and rose above the Bobcats' guard to launch the shot.

The ball swished through the net, stunning the crowd.

After hitting that shot, Bryant told a celebrating Butler, 'Yo,
that's what I do."

"I gave him a high-five and it was like, 'Let's get out of
here," Butler said.

The Bobcats had one final chance, but Knight's final desperation
heave wasn't close.

Bryant said he got fired up when he heard a fan yell that the
Bobcats were shutting him down entering the final quarter. Once he
found his rhythm, Charlotte had no answer for him.

"It was just time to take over the game," Bryant said.

Chucky Atkins added 26 points and hit six 3-pointers, while
Butler had 14 points and seven rebounds.

Game notes
Knight and Bryant were whistled for technical fouls with
2:27 left in the third quarter. Bryant had pushed through a screen
from Knight and the two exchanged words during the play. When asked
what the 5-foot-10 Knight said, Bryant responded, "I don't know. I
can't hear him. He's too little." ... The Lakers improved to 24-1
against first-year teams going back to the 1980-81 season. Their
only loss came against Orlando in December 1989. ... The Bobcats
are 7-16 against Western Conference teams. ... The crowd of 23,319
was just the second sellout of the season for Charlotte.


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