- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Pau Gasol had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Kobe Bryant added 20 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers picked up their 60th victory by beating the Houston Rockets 93-81 on Friday night.

Derek Fisher added 15 for the Lakers, who reached 60 wins for the 11th time in franchise history and the first since they went 67-15 in 1999-2000. Los Angeles pulled within a game of Cleveland for the NBA’s best record.

Ron Artest had 21 points for the Rockets, who slid one game behind San Antonio in the Southwest Division. Bryant hit back-to-back 3-pointers with less than five minutes remaining to give the Lakers an 11-point lead and Gasol hit four free throws down the stretch.

Yao Ming and Luis Scola each had 16 for the Rockets, who were swept by the Lakers in the season series for the first time in seven years. The Rockets had a 13-4 run that stretched from the third into the fourth, but then went without a field goal for nearly five minutes until Scola hit a jumper with 5:25 remaining.

Shane Battier, who finished with 14 points, brought the Rockets within five with 4:41 to play, but that’s when Bryant started hitting his 3s.

Houston took away the inside in the second half, so Los Angeles kept hitting mid-range and deep jumpers instead. Gasol had 10 points in the third quarter, Fisher added seven, and the Lakers took advantage of Houston’s turnovers to build a 65-55 lead.

Houston shot just 30 percent in the quarter, with Yao going 1-for-4 and Artest 2-for-5 with four points.

Bryant scored once in the first quarter and didn’t get going until late in the first half. He had seven of the Lakers’ final nine points in the second period, including a 3-pointer, to give them a 44-41 lead, but Artest hit a 3 to tie it at 44 at the break.

Bryant had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting by halftime.

The Lakers started the game with a 10-2 run, but Houston answered with a 10-4 spurt behind Yao’s seven points. Scola then hit two jumpers and Artest had a basket in the paint to end the burst, giving the Rockets their first lead at 21-20.

Notes:@ Lakers center Andrew Bynum (torn MCL) started working on 3-on-3 drills on Thursday and is still hoping to get on the court before the playoffs start. “The lateral movement started to feel better, so that was the next step,” Bynum said before the game. … Rockets coach Rick Adelman is hoping to have Carl Landry back before the season ends. Landry was shot in the leg on March 16 and has participated in drills, but hasn’t fully recovered.

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