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LA still belongs to Lakers

Updated: 2012-04-06 07:52
( China Daily)

LA still belongs to Lakers

Caron Butler (5) of the Los Angeles Clippers keeps his dribble from Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 113-108 Laker win at Staples Center in Los Angeles, April 4, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

Kobe Bryant willed the Los Angeles Lakers to a crucial victory over the Clippers, who won style points with some flashy plays but couldn't overcome a well-rested Andrew Bynum.

Bynum scored 36 points after missing a game with a sprained left ankle, Bryant added 31 and the Lakers won 113-108 on Wednesday night to widen their Pacific Division lead to 2 games over the second-place Clippers. The Lakers also snapped the Clippers' winning streak at six, the franchise's best in 20 years.

LA still belongs to Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) shoots as Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan defends during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, April 4, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

"Kobe didn't want to lose," Bynum said. "We are fighting for a playoff spot. They are one game behind us, so we had to get this win."

By taking two out of three against their Staples Center co-tenants, the Lakers also earned the head-to-head tiebreaker in a game that could help decide the division winner and playoff seeding in the West. The division winner will likely earn the No. 3 seed behind Oklahoma City and San Antonio.

"They're going to make spectacular plays, but we talked about playing poised and composed," Bryant said. "They have so many weapons. But it's not any different than some of the other top teams that we face in the league. The crowd obviously gave them a lot of energy and their bench gave them a lot of energy, but we maintained our composure and made big plays."

Former Laker Caron Butler scored 28 points to lead six Clippers in double figures. Chris Paul added 22 points and 16 assists, Blake Griffin had 15 points and 14 rebounds, and DeAndre Jordan had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the West's fourth-place team, the designated home team in this matchup.

"Ain't no moral victories around here," Paul said. "They won the game and that's that."

Ramon Sessions added 16 points and eight assists for the Lakers, who won their fourth in a row.

"We miscommunicated a lot of times, worried about Kobe a little too much and we were giving up layups to Sessions," Paul said.

Bynum bounced back with an offensive performance that was one point off his season high after injuring his ankle Sunday and running afoul of the front office with some questionable on-court behavior.

"It hurts a little bit, especially on spin moves," Bynum said. "I found more little things out there that hurt so I tried to stay away from them. As the game progresses, the pain subsides."

LA still belongs to Lakers

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates his basket against the Los Angeles Clippers in the fourth quarter during a 113-108 win at Staples Center in Los Angeles, April 4, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

With the Lakers clinging to a two-point lead, Bryant hit a jumper over Randy Foye to make it 110-106 with 24 seconds left. Paul missed a jumper and Griffin was called for a loose ball foul on Pau Gasol, who made one of two free throws with 18 seconds left.

"Both teams really wanted it," former Clipper and current Laker Steve Blake said. "It was physical and both teams were changing their game plans on the fly and it was fun to be out there."

Griffin's tip drew the Clippers within three, but Nick Young fouled Matt Barnes, who made both free throws. Paul's turnover and foul gave the Lakers the ball with 4 seconds to go, ending the Clippers' chances to win the season series for the first time in 19 years.

Associated Press in Los Angeles

LA still belongs to Lakers

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) dunks over Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, of Spain, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, April 4, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

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