Steph scores 45 in new loss
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New York @
117 - 107
Record: 29-41
The Knicks trying to ket Kobe Bryant's Pass (AP Photo)
The Knicks trying to ket Kobe Bryant's Pass (AP Photo)
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers had a reason to celebrate for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks.

It probably felt like a lot longer to a team not used to losing, although the current Lakers don't resemble the squad that reached the NBA Finals in four of the last five years and won three championships.

Kobe Bryant scored 20 of his 32 points in the second half Tuesday night, Caron Butler added 26, and the Lakers beat the road-weary New York Knicks 117-107 to snap an eight-game losing streak.

"We needed a win desperately,'' Lakers coach Frank Hamblen said after his team's first victory since a 117-116 triumph at Charlotte on March 12.

"It was a good win for us. Any win was a good win for us at this point,'' Bryant said with a smile.

New York's Stephon Marbury had a season-high 45 points, six rebounds and 10 assists in defeat. He scored 34 in the second half, shooting 9-of-13 from the floor, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range and 10-of-11 from the foul line.

Marbury wound up making 12 of 22 field goals, including 6-of-8 from beyond the arc and 15 of 16 free throws in falling five points shy of his career high.

"Stephon was incredible, but I'm sure he would trade all of it for the win,'' teammate Jamal Crawford said.

That seemed to be the case.

"It doesn't matter if you score 50 points or two points,'' Marbury said. "If you win, that's the most important thing.''

The losing streak was the second longest for the Lakers (33-37) since they moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in 1960. They lost their last 10 games of the 1993-94 season. That was the last time they failed to qualify for the playoffs, something they seem destined to do this year for just the second time since 1976. They are in 10th place in the Western Conference, and trail Denver for the eighth and final playoff berth by 5 1/2 games with 12 remaining.

"Our playoff hopes are probably very slim at this point,'' Hamblen said. "We just want to get back to playing good basketball. Maybe we can be a spoiler.''

Devean George, playing just his third game of the season, had 18 points and Chucky Atkins scored 12 for the Lakers, who shot 53.4 percent and committed only 10 turnovers two days after committing a season-high 27.

"I'm still a little rusty -- I feel like I've got cement blocks for tennis shoes,'' said George, who sat out the first 67 games of the season while recovering from offseason ankle surgery. "Everything that could have gone wrong, it seems like, did go wrong this season.''

The Lakers, who have had defensive problems all year, are now 7-32 in games where their opponent scores 100 or more points.

The loss was the seventh in 10 games for the Knicks (29-41), who went winless in a four-game road trip to all but mathematically end their playoff hopes.

Kurt Thomas had 18 points and 15 rebounds and Crawford added 16 points and nine assists for the Knicks. Tim Thomas, who scored a season-high 35 in New York's 117-115 overtime victory over the Lakers on Feb. 28 at Madison Square Garden, was held to five points.

"The thing that killed us is we gave up probably 43 points in transition,'' Knicks coach Herb Williams said. "That's getting back and matching up. Nothing complicated, real simple, we just didn't get back and match up and they ran it down our throat.''

Tierre Brown, who shot 5-of-5 for 11 points, scored five during a 7-0 run that gave the Lakers a 99-85 lead with 8 1/2 minutes remaining. The Knicks weren't closer than eight points after that.

Marbury scored five straight to make it 102-94 with 5:25 to play, but Chris Mihm made two baskets -- the first as the shot clock expired -- to put the Lakers ahead by 12 with 4:06 left.

The Lakers led 86-79 entering the fourth quarter. Marbury scored 18 points and Bryant had 13 in the third period, when Los Angeles outscored New York 35-33.

Bryant scored six points and Butler four during a 16-4 run that gave the Lakers a 51-39 lead before the Knicks scored the last seven points of the second quarter to draw within five at halftime.

Notes: Lamar Odom, the Lakers' second-leading scorer, sat out his fifth game because of a slight tear and bruised rotator cuff in his left shoulder. ... The Knicks are 8-27 on the road this season and have lost nine of their last 10 road games. ... The Lakers' last 12 games are against Western Conference opponents. They finished 13-17 against Eastern Conference teams. ... The Knicks played their last four games in four different cities in a five-day span. "It's tough, but it's not like everybody doesn't do it. Everybody has to do it,'' Marbury said before playing one of the finest games of his career, although he did commit six turnovers.

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