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Kobe Bryant's heroics help Lakers rally, edge Raptors in OT

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant's steely determination never wavers. It's his 34-year-old body he sometimes wonders about.

He skipped the pregame shootaround because his shoulders were tight, and he was feeling weary in overtime.

But Bryant found enough energy to hit the tying 3-pointer with 5 seconds to play in regulation, then dunked for the go-ahead basket with 10 seconds left in the extra session, helping the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Toronto Raptors 118-116 on Friday night for their second straight come-from-behind win.

They rallied from 25 points down to beat New Orleans on the road two nights earlier, when Bryant had 42 points and 12 assists. This time, he finished with 41 points and 12 assists, and made 14 of 16 free throws.

"It's like, 'Damn, are you kidding again?" Bryant said. "Do we collectively have the energy to do this again, and we did."

Against the Raptors, the Lakers rallied from a 15-point deficit in regulation and a slow start in overtime to close within a half-game of Utah for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth. They also moved a game above .500.

"It feels good to be back within striking distance," Bryant said. "We're just hell-bent on trying to win games."

Dwight Howard had 24 points and 13 rebounds while going 6 of 13 from the free throw line as he and Bryant complimented each other well for the second game in a row.

"We know what we're trying to accomplish as a team and we just stuck together," Howard said. "Kobe hit some tough shots and then we got some good stops at the end."

DeMar DeRozan led six Toronto players in double figures with 28 points. Rudy Gay and Alan Anderson added 17 points each, and Kyle Lowry had 15 points and 10 assists. Starter Andrea Bargnani left the game with a strained right elbow in the first quarter.

"Our guys are fighting, scratching their behinds off," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "Now we have to understand the intensity, the speed of the game, how much you have to put thought into the game and execution at the same time as you are playing hard."

The Lakers won their fifth in a row at home and 10th straight at Staples Center against Toronto, which was seeking its first-ever season sweep after winning 108-103 on Jan. 20.

The Lakers found themselves playing catch-up nearly the entire game.

Under defensive pressure in overtime, Bryant passed off to his teammates, but they repeatedly missed. Steve Nash finally hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 115 with 45 seconds left. Then, Bryant's running dunk gave the Lakers their second lead of overtime.

"He's a clutch shooter, you can't just leave him open," Bryant said. "He made them pay."

Howard fouled Anderson, who made the first free throw and deliberately missed the second. But Aaron Gray fouled going for the ball, giving the Lakers possession. Nash got fouled and missed the first but made the second for a 118-116 lead.

Gay's jumper missed as time expired, the same thing that happened to him when he took the last shot of regulation. He shot 7 for 26.

"They didn't go in, so I guess not," he said about the looks he was getting. "I don't like to miss."

Bryant and Howard combined to score 12 straight points in the fourth and Nash hit a 3-pointer as the Lakers trailed 103-99, the third time they closed within four points. Bryant's 3-pointer beat the shot clock and got the Lakers to 105-103.

Anderson hit a jumper for the Raptors, who led 107-103. Bryant missed a 3-pointer, but after a timeout, he caught the inbounds pass from Nash and hit a 3-pointer that drew the Lakers within a point with 29 seconds to go.

Howard fouled Lowry, who made both for a 109-106 lead with 8 seconds left. After another timeout, Bryant caught the inbounds from Steve Blake and fought through traffic to make the tying 3-pointer at 109-all.

"We're just not going to give in," said Bryant, who had nine of his team's 13 turnovers. "I'm a perfectionist. ... The turnovers I had were just tired turnovers."

Bryant had the Lakers in rally mode in the third when they trailed by 13. He keyed a 13-5 run with eight straight points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, to get to 83-78. But then Bryant had two straight turnovers, and Antawn Jamison and Bryant missed 3-pointers to close the quarter trailing 89-79.

Howard and Bryant combined to score 17 of the Lakers' 28 points in the second quarter, when they rallied from 15 points down to trail 59-53 at the break. Bryant only played the final five minutes of the period, scoring five points in that time.

The Raptors shot 74 percent in the first quarter, outscoring Los Angeles 37-25. Toronto lost Bargnani with a strained right elbow after he scored two points in nine minutes.

Game notes
The Raptors play 18 of their final 20 games against Eastern opponents. ... Toronto concluded its four-game trip with a 1/3 mark, having changed time zones four times. ... The Raptors haven't won at Staples since Nov. 13, 2009, when they beat the Clippers. ... They fell to 9-23 on the road.