Kobe, Lakers take advantage of undermanned Spurs in win

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Two of their three stars were sidelined, the third had a sub-par game, and the San Antonio Spurs still gave the Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle.

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, and the Lakers used an 18-5 fourth-quarter spurt to break open a close game and beat the Spurs 102-97 on Thursday night for their fourth straight victory.

"We expected that from them," said Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. "We were able to lock down and get some stops when we needed them."

The defending NBA champion Spurs (17-5), losers of two straight for the first time this season, played without Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

Duncan, averaging 17.6 points and 8.9 rebounds, sat out his fourth straight game because of a sprained right ankle. Parker, averaging 20.1 points and 6.8 assists, missed his first game of the season with a sprained left ankle.

"Very choppy game. The Spurs can make you play like that," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Their defense is solid, no matter who they put out there."

Manu Ginobili, averaging a team-leading 20.8 points, scored only 14 and committed seven of San Antonio's 16 turnovers. He shot 5-of-17 and picked up his fifth foul with 10:27 remaining and the Lakers leading 78-76.

"It was hard," Ginobili said. "I tried at the beginning to play off the ball and find the open man. But we weren't making those shots, and I wasn't making mine, either. You've got to give them credit, too, they played a good defense on me.

"We just didn't execute the last five or six minutes."

After Bruce Bowen's 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter tied the game at 81, two baskets by Vladimir Radmanovic triggered the game-breaking spurt that gave the Lakers (13-8) a 99-86 lead with 3:40 remaining. San Antonio scored the final five points after the outcome had been decided.

"Defensively, we made our rotations a little bit faster, closed out on the shooters a little bit," said Bryant, who also had seven rebounds and three assists. "They missed some shots and we got some runouts."

Bowen led the Spurs with 22 points -- two off his career high. Brent Barry added 17 points and Fabricio Oberto had a career-high 16 rebounds to go with nine points.

"Fabricio's been doing that for us the last couple of years -- being aggressive on the defensive board, giving us opportunities on the offensive boards and just being the hustle guy that we know he's all about," said San Antonio's Michael Finley, who scored 11 points.

Lakers center Andrew Bynum picked up two technical fouls and was ejected with 4:32 left in the third quarter and the Lakers leading 63-59. He left with six points and 11 rebounds.

"Not much to say. He lost his cool for a second, he got tossed," Bryant said. "Andrew should be proud -- first ejection, national TV, he went out in a blaze of glory."

Jackson said he told the 20-year-old Bynum it was a good lesson for him.

"You've got to maintain your character, your poise," Jackson said. "You're needed by your basketball club."

The Los Angeles reserves scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and 37 overall.

"That was a very important aspect of the game," Jackson said. "They moved the ball, they moved themselves."

The Spurs got a 3-pointer from Finley and two more from Bowen for a 72-69 lead -- their first since the opening minute of the second quarter. They led 74-72 entering the final period.

"We hung in for a good long time," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It was tough to hang in there the whole time and then have a couple defensive situations break it open."

The Lakers led by as many as 10 points in the second quarter before settling for a 51-43 halftime lead. Bryant had 16 points at the half, with none of his teammates scoring more than five.

The Lakers shot 1-of-14 to start the game, but trailed by only one point entering the second quarter. San Antonio reserves scored 12 of their team's 19 points in the period.

Game notes
Bowen, who entered with a 5.6-point average, scored a season-high 23 in the Spurs' 107-92 victory over the Lakers last month in San Antonio. ... The Lakers play five of their next six games on the road starting Friday night at Golden State. They've won nine straight games and 14 of their last 15 against the Warriors. ... Duncan sat out only two games in each of the last two seasons. Parker has played in 492 games while missing just 22 in his six-plus seasons with the Spurs. Popovich said Duncan might return to action Saturday night when the Spurs entertain Denver, but Parker will probably be out a little longer. "Tony's been laboring for two, three games with his foot," Popovich said. "It's real sore. He can't plant and spin. It's not going to heal unless he sits." ... Kwame Brown missed his 12th straight game because of injuries to his left knee and ankle. He has missed 14 games because of injuries this season and sat out 41 for the same reason last season. Jackson said he hopes Brown will be able to play next week.