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Howard Helps Lakers Rally In 4th To Beat Suns 91-85

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dwight Howard had 19 points and 18 rebounds, Antawn Jamison added 19 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers survived Kobe Bryant’s bizarre four-point performance for their eighth win in 11 games, 91-85 over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

Bryant didn’t attempt a shot in the first half and scored his first basket with 2:13 to play, finishing 1 for 8 with eight turnovers in one of the oddest games of his 17-year career.

Yet the Lakers survived against the Suns, getting 17 points from Metta World Peace and maintaining a small lead down the stretch of their 12th win in Phoenix’s last 13 visits to Staples Center.

Michael Beasley scored 18 points and Luis Scola had 15 for the Suns, who have lost eight of 10. Phoenix is 5-23 on the road.

In a Lakers season jam-packed with ugly losses, statistical improbabilities and general weirdness, this victory will rank among the biggest curiosities. Along with Bryant’s disappearing act, they won despite managing just nine points in the third quarter, their lowest-scoring period of the season.

Los Angeles returned from its longest road trip of the season with its fourth straight home win, but Bryant — the NBA’s third-leading scorer this season — contributed little to the Lakers’ win over the Suns, who beat the Lakers in Phoenix to start the trip last month.

Bryant took his recent propensity for playmaking to an uncomfortable extreme in the first half, accumulating eight assists without taking a shot. Kobe even passed up fairly decent looks to force passes to his teammates on a few occasions, voluntarily removing the shooting skills of the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history from the Lakers’ offense.

Bryant finally started shooting in the third quarter, but was just as inept as his teammates, missing all five of his attempts. The Lakers didn’t make a basket in the third quarter after World Peace’s 3-pointer with 8:58 left, and Phoenix took its first lead late in the period despite its own poor shooting while the Lakers missed 16 of their 19 shots and went 9:21 without a basket.

Los Angeles fell behind by six points before finally mounting a comeback led by World Peace and Jodie Meeks, whose layup reclaimed the lead with 8:40 to play. The Lakers kept that small lead down the stretch, and Bryant finally got a bucket, an 8-foot leaner in the waning minutes.

The Lakers finally got home after being displaced by the Grammy Awards during a seven-game trip. Although the cross-country jaunt was fraught with injuries, poor performances and the usual drama surrounding this team, Los Angeles went 4-3 and built a little momentum for the first time in weeks.

The Lakers began that trip with a 92-86 loss at Phoenix on Jan. 30, blowing a big second-half lead and losing Howard to the shoulder injury that still dogs him.

NOTES: F Earl Clark played the Lakers’ entire road trip with pain in his right foot, with the Lakers attributing it to inflammation or tendinitis. Clark says the pain reminded him of a stress fracture from his college career at Louisville, but he intends to play through it. … The Lakers were home for the first time since losing Pau Gasol for at least six weeks with a foot injury…. Will Ferrell and Shaquille O’Neal watched the game from courtside seats underneath the basket on the Lakers’ end of the floor. During a third-quarter timeout, Ferrell donned the red blazer worn by Staples Center security personnel and stood on the court. Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis also sat courtside.

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