Bryant scored 21 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter and
Caron Butler matched a season high with 31, leading the Los Angeles
Lakers to a 117-94 win over the playoff-bound Sonics on Friday
Bryant, his lower leg heavily wrapped, showed no effects of the
bruised right shin that forced him to miss a game earlier this
week. He shot 15-for-22 from the floor, a good comeback after his
4-for-19 effort in Thursday's loss to Houston.
"It was actually sorer today than it was before the last
game," he said.
Bryant started by dishing all five of his assists in the first
quarter, then took the scoring later when it was available.
"My jump shot was falling for me pretty well," he said. "I
did a good job penetrating, getting into the gaps, and my teammates
were hitting shots. When they do that, it's very tough to guard us
because you have to make a decision."
Jumaine Jones had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers,
who'll miss the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. It was
just their second win in their last 15 games and their first road
win since beating Charlotte on March 12.
"We just wanted to win," Bryant said. "We've been playing so
hard. We just needed to win. It doesn't really matter what they
have going on."
With this loss, the Sonics have whiffed at three straight
chances to secure the division championship and the No. 3 seeding
in the Western Conference playoffs that comes with it.
"The focus is to play better basketball and better defense,"
Seattle coach Nate McMillan said. "We have to play better. If we
do that, then we'll take care of the other situation. We can't be
concerned about what Denver is doing."
With Denver beating Minnesota on Friday, the Nuggets are six
games back with seven remaining -- still room to catch Seattle. The
teams play Saturday in Denver, the first time George Karl will face
his former team since taking over the Nuggets.
The Sonics didn't have all their stars, and it showed.
All-Star forward Rashard Lewis missed his sixth game with a
bruised right foot, forward Vladimir Radmanovic sat out his 12th
straight game with a stress fracture in his right leg and guard
Antonio Daniels is out with swollen left knee.
Among the three, that's 43.7 points per game.
"A lot can be said of our rotation being switched around,"
Allen said. "Guys are getting shots who aren't usually used to
getting shots. We're trying to develop a chemistry with guys who
are playing. The same can be said on defense."
As if McMillan needed more injuries, center Jerome James missed
the second half with a sprained right ankle.
"We're missing some guys," McMillan said. "We have some young
guys playing. It's a tough situation here, one we haven't been
Los Angeles took control with a 15-0 run midway through the
second period, outscoring Seattle 29-16 in the quarter. Bryant even
banked in a 3-pointer at the halftime horn, putting the Lakers up
56-42 at the break.
Then Bryant scored the first four points of the second half and
Seattle's defense went to sleep to open a lane for Butler, whose
layup put the Lakers up 62-42 only 3½ minutes into the third
Los Angeles didn't let up. Butler scored 10 points in the third,
and Bryant added nine as the Lakers stretched their lead as large
as 83-61 after Butler's two free throws with 49 seconds left in the
"It felt good to get a win," Butler said. "We just have to
continue to play hard and kind of be the spoilers."
Lakers F Brian Grant went to the bench after banging his
right knee midway through the third quarter but returned in the
fourth. He scored 10. ... Sonics F Danny Fortson was listed as
doubtful because his sprained left shoulder swelled after
Thursday's practice, but he played 13 minutes, scoring three
points. ... L.A. coach Frank Hamblen on former coach Phil Jackson's
visit to Staples Center for Thursday's game: "I hope he had a good
time last night. It was a good opportunity to look at our team, to
look at what's lacking." ... Seattle won the season series 3-1.