Kobe tallies season-high 44 in shootout

Kobe Bryant made 16 free throws without a miss despite a broken

finger on his shooting hand. He played nearly 43 minutes against

the run-and-gun Warriors in his fourth game in five nights.

And in a feat of strength to match those marvels of skill and

endurance, he put the Los Angeles Lakers on his back and carried

them past Golden State.

Bryant had a season-high 44 points and 11 assists amid

perfection from the foul line, and Los Angeles survived Golden

State’s 55-percent shooting for a 124-118 victory Tuesday night.

“By his effort alone, I think we owe this game to him in the

win column,” said Phil Jackson, who gave in to Bryant’s request to

get back in the game even when his exhaustion was obvious.

Pau Gasol had a season-high 27 points and 12 rebounds for the

defending NBA champions, who have struggled without injured forward

Ron Artest during a clear dip in their mostly trouble-free season.

The Lakers relied even more heavily than usual on Bryant to

avoid their third loss in four days. Bryant came through with 27

points in the second half and 17 in the fourth quarter, clinching

his seventh 40-point game of the season on two free throws with

4:04 left.

“That guy is amazing,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said. “To be

able to shoot like he did with the finger problems that he has on

his shooting hand, it’s amazing. I love watching him play, and it’s

always a pleasure to coach against him.”

The huge wrap on the index finger of Bryant’s right hand

covers the most obvious of his several minor injuries. Bryant had

said his free throws were particularly tough with that wrap – yet

he was perfect, sealing the win with seven free throws in the final

period.

“It’s really just the up-and-downs of the season,” said

Bryant, whose 103 40-point games are the third-most in NBA history.

“You’re going to have stretches when you’re not playing well. It’s

about how you deal with it and how you play through it.”

Corey Maggette scored 25 points and Monta Ellis added 22 for

the Warriors, who beat Phoenix and Boston in the previous three

days during the best stretch of another rough start to a season.

Golden State shot superbly and ran its uptempo offense well,

but had nobody who could guard Bryant in the Warriors’ seventh

straight loss to the Lakers. The Warriors haven’t won three

straight games yet this season.

“It’s a great stage to play on, and a lot of fun,” said

Warriors rookie Stephen Curry, who scored 15 points in his first

road game in Hollywood. “We were right there with them. We’ve just

got to figure out how to finish it out and close it. It was a great

experience for me.”

The Lakers still have the NBA’s best record (25-6) despite

two 15-point losses in the previous three days, including their

102-87 Christmas flop against Cleveland. They also played their

third straight game without Artest, who gave himself a concussion

and a deep cut on his left elbow when he tripped and fell at his

home on Christmas.

In their first home game since their fans littered the court

with foam hands in response to the Lakers’ gripes about the

officiating, Bryant and Lamar Odom both got technical fouls for

arguing calls in the final 4:16. Los Angeles’ complaining helped

the Warriors keep within three points down the stretch until Bryant

followed up Ronny Turiaf’s two missed free throws with two foul

shots of his own with 1:05 to play.

C.J. Watson scored 14 points while hitting four 3-pointers

for the Warriors, who went 14 for 22 in the first quarter while

opening with a clear burst of energy, perhaps still rolling from

their impressive 103-99 win over the Celtics.

Pushing the tempo and finding Maggette for open shots, the

Warriors scored 29 points the first 8:03 to take an 11-point lead

that grew to 15 in the second quarter. Los Angeles rallied after

halftime and took the lead midway through the period, but the

Warriors hung around with scoring from Maggette and Ellis, whose

layup in traffic evened it at 104 with 5:24 to play.

NOTES: Warriors C Andris Biedrins, who returned Monday from a

lengthy absence with an injured groin, had six points and eight

rebounds before fouling out. … Artest plans to run on a treadmill

Wednesday to see how his body responds. He might try to play Friday

vs. Sacramento. … Vladimir Radmanovic scored 11 points for the

Warriors. … Courtside fans included John McEnroe, Hayden

Panettiere and Nicole Richie. Her longtime partner, rocker Joel

Madden, wore a T-shirt reading “RIP The Rev” to honor Avenged

Sevenfold drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, who was found dead in

Huntington Beach on Monday.