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Kobe drops season-high 48 as Lakers fight off Sonics in OT

SEATTLE (AP) -- On their first night without Andrew Bynum, the weary Los Angeles Lakers learned they can beat an inferior team without their flourishing young center.

They hope it doesn't take 48 points and an overtime game-winner from Kobe Bryant every night to survive for the next eight weeks without Bynum.

Bryant capped his season-best offensive outburst by swishing an 18-footer with 4.3 seconds left in overtime to help the Lakers beat the Seattle SuperSonics 123-121 on Monday night.

It was the seventh straight win for the Lakers, their longest win streak since rolling off 11 straight in March 2004. But this one was revealing.

Playing on the road, on consecutive days, and having just received word Bynum would be out until at least March, the Lakers withstood every shot from the Sonics.

Of course, having Bryant certainly helped.

"This is a tough one," a tired looking Bryant said. "Tonight was one of those nights where I kind of had to read the mood of the team. Us kind of being a little deflated with [Bynum] going down, being a back-to-back, coming in on the road, it was one of those things where I just kind of wanted to be a lot more assertive."

How assertive? Bryant scored the final six points of overtime. He took 44 shots, just three off his career high of 47.

Before the game, Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said he wouldn't mind if Bryant went off just as long as he was forced to take a lot of shots. Carlesimo just didn't count on Bryant making nearly half of his attempts, making 21 field goals.

It was Bryant's 87th career 40-point game, one behind Elgin Baylor for third all-time in league history.

And Bryant's efforts nearly went for naught, as Seattle took advantage of Bynum's absence inside and nearly kept the Lakers from moving into a tie with Phoenix atop the Pacific Division. Instead, it was Seattle's seventh straight loss and another snapshot that Bryant can add to his career highlights.

"That's why he's the best player in the world," said Seattle rookie Kevin Durant.

Nick Collison led Seattle with 24 points and 18 rebounds, and Durant finished with 19 points, but missed 20 shots.

Seattle had opportunities to pull away in overtime, after jumping out to a 121-117 lead. Kurt Thomas missed a pair of free throws with 2:23 left and Bryant hit consecutive jumpers -- a pair of fadeaways from 5- and 14-feet -- to again pull the teams even.

After a Durant miss, Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom missed open 3s, but Durant again failed to give the Sonics the lead, missing an 18-footer over Kwame Brown. Odom grabbed the rebound, giving the Lakers one final chance and Bryant capitalized, making up for missing an open jumper and getting stripped at the end of regulation.

Seattle had one final chance to force a second overtime, but Collison missed an 18-footer at the buzzer.

Lakers' coach Phil Jackson passed Bill Fitch for sixth place on the all-time wins list with 945. Jackson said he thought about the milestone earlier in the day, but was more concerned about how the Lakers would respond without Bynum, who suffered a left knee injury in Sunday night's win over Memphis.

The 20-year-old Bynum was averaging 13.1 points and 10.2 rebounds for the Lakers and will now sit and watch if his teammates can continue their surprising start. The Lakers have now won 17 of their last 20.

But their interior was exposed by the Sonics. Seattle outscored the Lakers 56-46 in the paint and the inside combo of Collison and Thomas outscored Bynum's replacements -- Ronny Turiaf and Brown -- 40-24.

"We're obviously going to have to put in a lot more work and practice, and refocus on defense now that we don't have Andrew down there," Lakers' forward Luke Walton said. "We missed him a lot."

Thomas finished with 16 points, while Wally Szczerbiak added 18 off the bench for the Sonics. Turiaf finished with 14, and Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar both added 12 for the Lakers.

The frantic fourth quarter and overtime capped an entertaining matchup that featured 22 lead changes and 11 ties.

Seattle had chances to win in regulation after Durant had pulled Seattle even at 115-all on a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left. Bryant rimmed out a 3 of his own, but Durant couldn't connect on a 23-footer with 6 seconds left. Bryant was then stripped by Earl Watson as he went up for a potential game-winning shot, sending the game to overtime.

"We can win ugly games. This was an ugly game for us ... and we found a way to tough it out," Bryant said. "Last year, I don't know if we would have won this game."

Game notes
Seattle is now 1-1 in overtime this season. It was the Lakers first overtime game. ... Jackson said injured F Vladimir Radmanovic could start practicing later this week. Radmanovic has been out with a sprained right ankle. ... Seattle F Chris Wilcox returned and scored 12 points and had nine rebounds. Wilcox had missed the last four games after dislocating his right pinky finger. Ridnour had been out with a lingering quadriceps strain.

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