Kobe scores 34 to lead LA Lakers to one-point win over Atlanta

Kobe scores 34 to lead LA Lakers to one-point win over Atlanta

LOS ANGELES - The Associated Press
Kobe scores 34 to lead LA Lakers to one-point win over Atlanta

Kobe Bryant celebrates after making a three point buzzer beater to end the third period against the Hawks. AFP photo

Kobe Bryant scored 11 of his 34 points in the last quarter and hit the go-ahead layup with nine seconds left, leading the Lakers back to .500 for the first time in more than two months with a 99-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Steve Blake stole Josh Smith’s pass in the waning seconds for the Lakers, who blew a 16-point lead in the second half before Bryant scored the last 6 points.

After Bryant scored the Lakers’ final basket while driving directly at Smith, Blake swiped Smith’s desperation pass from underneath Los Angeles’ basket. Bryant threw the ball high in the air to run out the clock on Los Angeles’ seventh straight home victory over the Hawks since 2006.

“I just had to attack,” Bryant said. “I wanted to attack and just go right at them. Take the game to them. Be aggressive. Be physical. And it worked out.”

Steve Nash had 15 points and 10 assists, while Dwight Howard added 11 points and 15 rebounds in the Lakers’ 13th win in 18 games. Los Angeles hung on for a quality win over the Hawks, a near-certain playoff team with ample motivation to knock off the high-profile Lakers.

Kobe wouldn’t allow it, making one big play after another down the stretch. Afterward, he repeatedly compared himself to a fine wine – only getting better with age.

“It was more of a message to my team here, to kind of have that will, to push through it by any means necessary,” he said. “It’s just a challenge. I wouldn’t even really categorize it as fun. The fun comes in the challenge, and we’re up for it.”

The Lakers hadn’t been at .500 since Dec. 28, when they followed a win over Portland with six consecutive losses. They’ve spent the past six weeks digging themselves out of the latest hole in their rut-filled season, culminating in a lengthy stretch of recent solid play despite the absence of injured 7-footer Pau Gasol.

In New York, LeBron James scored 12 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to lead defending champion Miami past New York 99-93 as the Heat matched its record win streak with a 14th victory in a row.

James also contributed 11 assists and seven rebounds and his steal and fast break slam dunk with 23 seconds remaining provided a final exclamation point for a Miami squad that lost twice to the Knicks already this season.

The Heat matched the club record win streak, set in the 2004-05 season, and their current run is the second-longest win streak in the NBA this season to a 17-game win streak by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Dwyane Wade added 20 points for Miami while Chris Bosh contributed 16 for the Heat, 14 of them in the second half.

New York’s Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 32 points while J.R. Smith added 13 points and 12 rebounds and Jason Kidd scored 14 points.