Originally created 02/15/02

Lakers top SuperSonics



SEATTLE -- The Los Angeles Lakers looked to Kobe Bryant down the stretch. The Seattle SuperSonics will need to look to someone other than Vin Baker for a while.

Bryant scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Lakers to a 92-87 victory over the SuperSonics on Thursday night.

Baker, Seattle's starting power forward, broke three toes on his left foot and will be out of the lineup indefinitely. He had to be helped off the court with 7.8 seconds remaining in the first half after colliding with the Lakers' Stanislav Medvedenko while driving to the basket.

"It definitely took away our post-up game," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "He's really most of our post-up game. That forced us to play more of a perimeter, pick-and-roll style of play."

Bryant shot poorly, finishing 8-for-21, but was at his best in the final 2:18 when he made a pair of clutch baskets and hit two free throws.

Playing their third straight game without Shaquille O'Neal, who is on the injured list with an arthritic right big toe, the Lakers also got 10 assists from Bryant.

Bryant wants to be the Lakers' leader on the court. He was against the Sonics.

"I just try to set an example by how hard I play," said Bryant, the MVP at the NBA All-Star game in Philadelphia on Sunday. "I don't like to rest one minute of the 48 minutes so I can get after guys."

Bryant seemed more proud of his 10 assists than his 23 points.

"I think it surprised them, the amount of trust I have in my teammates," he said. "I'm willing to kick the ball out to them and let them take the big shot."

Brent Barry led the Sonics with 21 points. Gary Payton had 17 points and 12 assists for Seattle, which lost for the fifth time in six home games.

"We played a tough game," Seattle's Desmond Mason said. "But they made some big shots down at the end. It seemed like we got the worst end of everything."

Robert Horry and Devean George also hit big shots for the Lakers down the stretch. Horry made a 3-pointer and a 19-footer to give Los Angeles an 83-80 lead with 2:47 left before Bryant put in an offensive rebound on a scramble under the basket.

The Sonics rallied to tie at 85 on a 3-pointer by rookie Vladimir Radmanovich and two free throws by Barry with 1:32 left.

George took a pass from Bryant and made a 3-pointer with 1:06 left. Bryant drove past Payton for a layup with 27.3 seconds to go and made two free throws after being fouled by Rashard Lewis with 8.1 seconds remaining.

Lewis, Radmanovich and Barry all missed long shots in the final minute for Seattle.

The game got rough in the fourth quarter. Bryant was called for a flagrant foul with 7:11 left after he knocked Mason hard to the floor as Mason drove in for a dunk.

"That fired me up a little," said Bryant, who argued the flagrant foul call with referee Joey Crawford.

With 6:29 to go, Derek Fisher knocked Sonics rookie guard Earl Watson to the floor with an elbow to the face. Watson, who was guarding Fisher, was called for a foul on the play.

With the score tied at 45, the Sonics went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter. Jerome James made an 8-footer, Barry sank a 3-pointer, Lewis dunked after grabbing an offensive rebound and then converted a fastbreak layup on a pass from Payton. Payton made a free throw for a 55-45 lead for Seattle with 6:15 left in the quarter.

The loss of Baker leaves the Sonics without an inside game. Baker, whose name has been mentioned in trade talks this week, was averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds coming into the game.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson complimented the Sonics.

"They came out in the second half and really pushed the issue," Jackson said. "Gary took it upon himself to get his team going. We were fortunate to get a couple of bounces and a couple things happen right for us."

Notes: The Lakers announced Thursday that 85-year-old Chick Hearn will return to his broadcasting duties on March 1. He had heart surgery Dec. 20, ending a streak of 3,338 consecutive games. He had not missed a game since Nov. 20, 1965. He went to work for the Lakers in 1961. ... The fans in Seattle didn't get to see much of O'Neal this season. He was ejected after getting two technicals in the first quarter on Nov. 30. The Lakers won that game 107-92 as Bryant scored 28 of his 30 points after O'Neal's ejection.