Wizards can't match Kobe's magic

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

It wasn't so much a flop as a shimmy, or a personal tremor.

However much contact Kobe Bryant felt from Martell Webster felt on his errant 3-point attempt with 4:27 remaining in the fourth quarter, whether it was the tiniest bit or none at all, the 5-time NBA champion made sure it pulsed through his body with conviction.

It was enough to draw a whistle, demonstrating his power over the officials, a sold out Verizon Center and most importantly, the Wizards. Even though it took him 29 shots to get a game-high 30 points, Bryant manipulated Washington as only he could in 102-96 win that snapped the Los Angeles Lakers' four-game losing streak.

"He didn't score 30,000 points for nothing," Webster said. "It's one of those things, where you've got to come in and be focused with the fact that you want to keep him in front of you and have him shoot over a hand, every time he shoots the ball."

But the Wizards (3-17) couldn't get what they wanted even when they did what they wanted. They matched the Lakers (10-14) offensively in the first half as both teams hit 53.8 percent of their shots before the break, largely due to three-pointers from Cartier Martin (team-high 21 points). At game's end they were even or ahead in assists (19-18), rebounds (48-45), fast break points (17-16), and points in the paint (46-44).

But Bryant, who also had seven assists, seven rebound and two steals, had larger forces on his side while the Wizards showed the Lakers what it really means to struggle.

"First foul he gave me, he grabbed my arm and just threw both arms up and got a foul," Wizards rookie Bradley Beal said after just four points and four boards. "Just being smart, the way he plays and just how, the game is very slow for him."

Beal, of course, picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter on a dubious call as he surged on the fast break. Chris Duhon cut in front of the rookie, who got the whistle against him when he was trying to shield himself.

Jordan Crawford (11 points) then spun in the lane for one of multiple circus shots, getting mauled in the process, but heard nothing from the officials. Kevin Seraphin (16 poins, eight rebounds) was dumbfounded when his baseline jumper, on the downward part of its trajectory, was sent into the stands with no call by Dwight Howard (12 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks).

"I thought there was some very questionable calls down the stretch," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "But those things tend to do that, go their way."

The Lakers ran off a pair of 10-0 runs in the third quarter to put Washington on its heels. Bryant finished the second one with personal 8-0 run, closing with an alley oop that had Webster hanging on the rim after a failed attempt to make a block. Jodie Meeks (24 points) hit his fourth 3-pointer to give Los Angeles an 88-72 lead.

Webster (17 points) got payback, soaring to slam a 50-foot pass from Crawford after a dunk by Nene (17 points, eight rebounds), and Seraphin's alley oop and slam helped Washington pull within 99-93 with under two minutes to play.

But Beal traveled on the next possession, and when Howard missed his second free throw attempt at the other end, Bryant dive bombed right past him and everybody else for the putback.

The heavy contingent of Lakers fans, who'd been quiet when the game was close, made their presence known as the final buzzer sounded.

"I'm used to it," Webster said. "I saw it in Minnesota. Saw it in Portland. They showed up, we fed off the energy. it feels good. Regardless. They were cheering for us. There might have been a lot of cheers for them as well. It felt good. I loved the energy."

Like the outcome, it was mostly due to Kobe.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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