|Portland's Greg Oden goes up for a shot against Miami's Joel Anthony. (DAVID ADAMS/Associated Press)|
Lakers remain unbeaten
The Hornets were primed to pull off an improbable comeback until Kobe Bryant made it impossible.
Bryant scored 20 points, highlighted by a tough 3-pointer over James Posey with just over a minute left, and the Los Angeles Lakers improved to 7-0 with a 93-86 victory in New Orleans last night.
"I just wanted to shoot it in his face," Bryant said of the late 3-pointer. "I knew I was due."
The dramatic and deflating shot stemmed a frantic 17-4 Hornets run and put the Lakers ahead, 86-80, with 1:08 to go.
"I knew Posey was going to sit on my arm, so I just had to back him up and try to shoot it," Bryant explained. "I knew it was going to be a tough shot because I had Posey draped all over me, so I just needed to focus on the basket and try to put it in."
Derek Fisher hit four 3-pointers and also finished with 20. He had 18 through three quarters, leading what had been a dominant effort by Los Angeles, which never trailed.
The Lakers led by as much as 23 before nervously holding on against a team that is expected to be one of their chief rivals for Western Conference supremacy.
Chris Paul led New Orleans (4-3) with 30 points and 13 assists, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers appeared to have the game in hand after Andrew Bynum's 8-foot turnaround jumper increased their lead to 79-63 with less than six minutes to go.
But Paul scored 11 points and assisted on three other baskets during a stirring surge that pulled New Orleans to 83-80 on Paul's floater off the glass with 1:33 left.
The fans were on their feet, urging on the defense, which appeared to be on the verge of getting another stop when Bryant's difficult 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down hit the back rim and dropped straight through.
"I'm never surprised to see him do anything," Fisher said. "He's one of those rare guys in the history of the game that I think can actually make the ball go in."
Trail Blazers 104, Heat 96 - Greg Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft, returned to visiting Portland's lineup, scoring 3 points and grabbing two rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench to help his team beat Miami.
The hard-luck center missed all of last season following knee surgery and only managed to play 13 minutes after spraining his right foot against the Lakers in his long-awaited debut last month. He sat out six games with the injury.
But another Portland rookie stole the show against the Heat. Rudy Fernandez scored 25 points, including a clutch, spinning jumper as the shot clock expired with 44.9 seconds left.
Rockets 94, Suns 82 - Tracy McGrady scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half, and visiting Houston beat Phoenix in a game that featured a skirmish that drew two ejections and seven technical fouls.
What was mostly a shoving match broke out just after McGrady's 3-pointer put Houston ahead, 74-55, with 27 seconds left in the third quarter. Houston's Rafer Alston, apparently upset after getting a shoulder from Matt Barnes, shoved the Phoenix player at midcourt.
Steve Nash rushed into the middle of things and was pushed to the court by McGrady, who in turn was shoved down by Shaquille O'Neal. After coaches and officials separated the players, the referees huddled and ejected Alston and Barnes with double technicals. McGrady, Nash, and O'Neal all drew technical fouls.
Kings 103, Clippers 98 - Beno Udrih had a career-high 30 points and seven assists, and shorthanded Sacramento never trailed in beating host Los Angeles for the Kings' fourth win in five games.
Bucks 82, Spurs 78 - Richard Jefferson scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half, Andrew Bogut grabbed 17 rebounds, and host Milwaukee held on after a big run to beat San Antonio.
76ers 106, Raptors 96 - Elton Brand scored a season-high 25 points, Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala each had 18, and Philadelphia snapped a three-game losing streak by beating host Toronto.
Knicks 132, Grizzlies 103 - Wilson Chandler scored a career-high 27 points, missing only one of his 12 shots, and visiting New York made a franchise-record 19 3-pointers in beating Memphis.
Pacers 98, Nets 87 - T.J. Ford had 18 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds, and banged-up Indiana won its third straight with a victory over host New Jersey.
Magic 109, Thunder 92 - Dwight Howard recorded his first career triple-double with 30 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 blocks as visiting Orlando beat Oklahoma City. The Thunder's Kevin Durant missed the game because of a sore left ankle.
Wizards 95, Jazz 87 - Led by All-Star forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, and with a boost from rookie JaVale McGee, host Washington avoided the first 0-6 start in franchise history.