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Bryant scores 48 despite spraining shoulder

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- For a while, it appeared as though Kobe
Bryant wouldn't make it out of the first quarter -- let alone come
up with his most productive game of the season.

Bryant scored 48 points in 46 minutes after spraining his left
shoulder, and the Los Angeles Lakers recorded a season high in
points Tuesday night with a 117-99 victory over the Toronto
Raptors.

"It couldn't have been that bad, because he scored 48,"
teammate Lamar Odom said. "Kobe doesn't show signs of hurt. He
won't let you know. And that's probably a weakness."

Los Angeles got 18 points and nine rebounds from Caron Butler,
who returned from a one-game suspension. Odom had 15 points and 13
rebounds despite early foul trouble.

Bryant's non-shooting shoulder took a beating in the first 5½
minutes. First, he hit the deck after missing a spinning layup and
falling over Eric Williams. He staggered off the court wincing
again after driving the lane and getting the ball slapped out of
his hands by rookie center Rafael Araujo.

Bryant, coming off a 42-point effort against Miami on Saturday,
went to the dressing room after the second incident. But only seven
seconds ticked off the clock before he reported back in -- the only
time Bryant wasn't on the floor until the fourth quarter, when he
spent the first two minutes on the bench.

"There were certain things that I could not do with it, but I
could still raise my arm up and still move it from side to side,"
said Bryant, who was 14-for-26 from the field and 16-for-18 on free
throws. "Some of the movements I couldn't do -- like tying my shoe
-- were not really important."

The Lakers, primed for an emotional letdown following their
104-102 overtime loss to the Heat in Shaquille O'Neal's
celebrity-studded return to Staples Center, beat Toronto for the
sixth straight time. They were 13-for-25 from 3-point range after
attempting a franchise-record 36 shots from 3-point range against
Miami and making 14.

"We've got a confident group of guys when it comes to shooting
the ball," Odom said. "We've got guys 6-11 like Brian Cook who
can step out and hit 3s. Jumaine Jones can really let it fly, and
Kobe can hit shots from anywhere. But it can definitely come back
and bite you. ... With the 3-pointer, you either live by it or die
by it."

Donyell Marshall made a 3-pointer and a dunk 21 seconds apart to
give Toronto a six-point lead with 8:15 to play. But Bryant fueled
a game-ending 32-8 run with 17 points, and the Lakers held the
Raptors to just one field goal over the final 6:45.

"We're a team that doesn't give up, no matter what, and we just
keep gnawing at you. But we've just got to protect the paint,"
Butler said.

"We'd be so great if we could do that, because then we could
get into our running game more often. We've got guys like Lamar,
Kobe, Chucky Atkins, and myself who look great on the break. But in
order to get into our fast-break offense, we've got to stop
people."

It was the first time in 10 tries this season that the Lakers
won a game they trailed after three quarters, and dropped the
Raptors to 0-15 when they give up at least 100 points.

"We've got to play hard from beginning to end," Marshall said.
"We can't start off well and then try to come back. We have to
play a good solid 48 minutes."

The Lakers improved to 15-12 and finished their December
schedule 6-6. It's their first month without a winning record since
last January, when O'Neal missed 12 games with a strained right
calf and they were 6-9.

Rafer Alston had 13 points and 11 assists for the Raptors, who
had seven players in double digits while losing for the 11th time
in 14 games and the ninth straight time on the road. Williams,
making his third start since Jalen Rose was dropped from the
starting lineup last Wednesday, had 12 points.

Toronto is 2-4 since trading Vince Carter to New Jersey for
Williams, Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams and two first-round draft
picks on Dec. 17. Mourning has yet to play for the Raptors because
of injuries that landed him on the injured list Monday.

Araujo, who replaced Mourning on the active roster, had eight
points in 19 minutes after missing five games with a lower back
strain.

Game notes
Michael Cooper, who took over as Denver Nuggets interim
head coach Tuesday after the firing of Jeff Bzdelik, is the eighth
player to coach an NBA club after playing on a Lakers championship
team. The others are Jerry West, Pat Riley, Magic Johnson, Kurt
Rambis, Byron Scott, Jim Cleamons and Eddie Jordan. ... Among the
sellout crowd was former Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Patrick
Valenzuela. ... The Lakers are 5-7 when they have attempted at
least 25 shots from behind the arc. They have done it in 11 of
their last 14 games -- including the last seven. "The number sort
of scares you when you look at the stat sheet," coach Rudy
Tomjanovich said. "That's something over this time off I'm going
to really look at. I've got to analyze that whole situation." ...
Marshall, who scored 10 points, needs 23 more to reach 20,000. ...
The Lakers missed 15 consecutive shots during one stretch in the
second half, but made their last nine.