Lakers beat Rockets, end foue-game losing streak

HOUSTON (AP) -- Kobe Bryant was stunned to find so many gaps in
the Houston Rockets' defense.

Once the shock wore off, Bryant took advantage, scoring 32
points and dishing out a season-high nine assists as the Lakers
snapped a four-game losing streak with an 89-78 victory Wednesday

"I started coming off the pick and roll and I was so wide
open," said Bryant, who went 13-for-29 from the field. "It really
threw me off at first. It's been two months since I've been that
wide open."

And when Bryant wasn't burning the Rockets, Brian Cook was. Cook
added 27 points and 10 rebounds one night after scoring a
season-high 28 in the Lakers' 102-87 loss at Dallas.

"A lot of other teams just focus on Kobe," Cook said. "I just
hang around on the weak side and nights like tonight, Kobe gives it

Rafer Alston scored 16 and Yao Ming added 14 points and 13
rebounds for the Rockets, who had a four-game winning streak

"We got too comfortable with ourselves with the winning
streak," McGrady said. "It's very disappointing to come home and
have an outing like this, myself included."

Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy ripped his team's effort after the
game. He said the Rockets were equally lackadaisical in their

"How little we put in the game, from the start of the day to
the end of the game, was totally uninspiring," Van Gundy said.
"We went through the motions, but didn't even fake it very well."

The game drew 18,291 fans -- a season high at the Toyota Center --
but those hoping to see a 1-on-1 duel between Bryant and All-Star
Tracy McGrady left disappointed.

McGrady had only 11 points on 5-for-18 shooting. He went 1-for-6
from 3-point range and also had seven assists, four rebounds and
two turnovers.

McGrady is 19-for-63 in Houston's last three games.

"Right now, I'm just in a really bad funk on offense and why? I
don't know," McGrady said. "It's just very disappointing."

Neither star did much in the first quarter.

Bryant attempted only one shot, a layup off an inbound pass that
Yao partially blocked. McGrady, meanwhile, missed his first six
shots before finishing a fast break with a one-handed dunk.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson sensed that McGrady wasn't himself.

"He looks like he's injured to me," Jackson said. "Except for
that dunk, he didn't seem to play with as much vim and vigor."

McGrady said he's physically fine -- he's just not playing well.

"I've got to bring more to the table on the offensive end," he

Bryant swished his first basket, a 3-pointer from the wing, with
10:16 left in the second quarter to give the Lakers a 22-19 lead.

But Bryant spent most of the half finding Cook, who was
averaging only 7.3 points coming into the game. The 6-foot-9
forward started 7-for-10, most of them mid-range jumpers, and had
15 by the midpoint of the second quarter.

"That's a very important weapon to have, especially when you
have somebody like Bryant," Van Gundy said.

After a slow start, Bryant hit five straight jumpers and the
Lakers rebuilt their lead. Bryant had seven assists in the first
half, but only one in the third quarter.

"I became much more assertive in the second half and took over
the game," Bryant said.

While Bryant found his range, McGrady stayed quiet, scoring only
two points in the third. He threw a bad pass late in the quarter
that Bryant intercepted and turned into a fast break.

A minute later, Bryant scored on a drive to restore the Lakers'
double-digit lead. With McGrady guarding him early in the fourth
quarter, Bryant swished a deep 3-pointer for a 73-62 Lakers' lead.

The Rockets started the fourth quarter 2-for-8 and never made a
serious charge.

"We didn't try hard enough," Van Gundy said. "It gives you
pause to think what do we really have here? We should've been
frothing at the mouth, like pit bulls. I so much want to have a
team that really, really, really wants to play every day, every

The Lakers, who won in Houston for the first time since November
2004, play their next eight games at home.<

^Notes:@ Bryant also tied a career high with six steals.
...Houston Astros 2B Craig Biggio, C Brad Ausmus and 1B Jeff
Bagwell had courtside seats. The Astros claim Bagwell is not fully
recovered from a shoulder injury and is too disabled to play this
season. Bagwell has said he'll be at spring training. During the
first timeout, the Rockets' mascot asked Bagwell to throw a
baseball into the stands. Bagwell laughed and responded, "No, I
can't throw." ... Former Texas quarterback and Rose Bowl MVP Vince
Young also attended the game.


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