- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2005

LOS ANGELES — Impressive on their just-concluded road trip, the Los Angeles Lakers hope to get on a roll at home.

Kobe Bryant scored 41 points and made a key defensive play in the waning seconds to lead Los Angeles to a 97-91 win over the Washington Wizards.

The Lakers improved to .500 on their home court.

“We had a really good road trip and wanted to come home and continue that momentum,” Bryant said, referring to the Lakers’ 5-1 trip. “We played ball well away, now it’s time to do the same at home.”

Lamar Odom, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds, agreed.

“We needed to win tonight to validate all those wins on the road,” he said. “Defending your home turf is important in this league.”

Los Angeles is 5-5 at home, 8-5 on the road.

“We need to try to regain some home-court advantage,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Bryant had 18 points in the third quarter to rally Los Angeles from a five-point deficit. The Lakers were ahead 70-66 heading into the fourth quarter and led the rest of the way.

Although he scored only seven points in the fourth quarter, Bryant sealed the win with three free throws in the closing 30 seconds.

With Los Angeles up 95-91, he blocked a shot by Gilbert Arenas with 13 seconds left, Arenas fouled him, and Bryant hit two free throws for the final margin.

He finished 14-of-24 from the floor.

Arenas led Washington with 29 points, but was just 6-of-20 from the floor. Caron Butler added 20 points against his former Los Angeles teammates.

“Our game plan was to let Kobe try to beat us and shut everyone else down,” Butler said. “We did a good job on that, but we just fell a couple of possessions short.”

Washington coach Eddie Jordan thought the Wizards should have played with more energy.

“They took it to us,” Jordan said. “It should not have happened like that. They just came off a six-game road trip and we thought we could bring the force and the energy to them.”

Bryant scored seven points in the opening two minutes of the second half to pull Los Angeles even at 47. His 18 points in the quarter were eight more than his teammates combined in the period.

Kwame Brown had nine rebounds and six points against his former Washington teammates.

Brown and Laron Profit came to Los Angeles in the deal that sent Butler and Chucky Atkins to Washington after last season. Atkins had seven points and Profit scored four for Los Angeles.

The Lakers shot 47 percent from the floor to 34 percent by the Wizards, but Washington kept it close by making six 3-pointers to Los Angeles’ three, and making 33 free throws to the Lakers’ 26.

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