Lakers edge Hawks on Bryant’s bucket, climb back to .500

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Updated: March 4, 2013

The Los Angeles Lakers are finally back to
being average.

At least record-wise.

Kobe Bryant had 34 points, including the go-ahead layup with nine seconds left
in the Lakers’ 99-98 win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Bryant got the ball along the right wing and drove past Al Horford with the
right-handed dribble before meeting Josh Smith at the rim and getting his
layup to drop from high off the glass.

Steve Blake stole Smith’s pass at the other end to seal the win for the Los
Angeles.

“I attacked and took the game to them,” Bryant said of his play down the
stretch.

At 30-30, the Lakers are .500 for the first time since Dec. 28 when they were
15-15. Los Angeles is 2 1/2 games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth
and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Dwight Howard added 11 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers.

Horford donated 24 points for Atlanta, which has lost two straight on the
heels of a four-game winning streak. Smith recorded 19 points, seven boards
and seven assists in defeat.

“We turned the ball over at crucial times and it cost us,” Hawks head coach
Larry Drew said.

Four points from Jeff Teague, sandwiched around a Metta World Peace 3-pointer,
gave Atlanta a 94-93 edge with 2:37 to play before Bryant brought the crowd to
its feet.

From the top of the key, Bryant drove hard past Smith down the right side of
the lane before emphatically throwing down a one-handed dunk over him. The
pendulum swung back in Atlanta’s favor, though, as Teague got his high-arching
floater to drop over Howard for a 96-95 Hawks edge with 45.2 seconds on the
clock.

Bryant sunk two free throws with 33.5 ticks to play, but Horford got free
behind Howard for a dunk with 26.7 seconds left for a 98-97 Atlanta margin.

The Lakers took a 30-26 lead after a quarter of play, a 52-45 edge into the
break and a 79-73 cushion heading into the final frame. Atlanta, though, began
the fourth on a 7-1 spring to tie the score at 80-80 and the tilt remained a
one-possession contest the rest of the way.

“Kobe’s willpower is incredible. The last three minutes was all his. His
belief in himself is huge,” Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Game Notes

Atlanta hasn’t beaten the Lakers in Los Angeles since Feb. 15, 2006 … Steve
Nash finished with 15 points and 10 assists for Los Angeles … Los Angeles
turned the ball over 21 times, which led to 29 Atlanta points.