Lakers down Hornets 108-102 with furious 4th-quarter rally

U.S. Sports Desk, Mar 7 (EFE).- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant provided a fresh round of late-game heroics, rallying his team from an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 108-102 road win over the New Orleans Hornets.

Bryant scored 42 points - including 13 in the final quarter, in which the Lakers went on a 20-0 run over the final 6:22 to pull out the improbable victory - and also dished out 12 assists and grabbed seven rebounds Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena.

The 2007-08 NBA MVP ran wild against the Hornets' defenders and scored from every conceivable angle, showing no sign of the elbow injury that bothered him in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder the previous night.

The Lakers trailed by as many as 25 points at one stage but it still wasn't enough for the Hornets, who continued to vie with the Sacramento Kings for the worst record in the Western Conference.

With the win, Los Angeles improved its record to 31-31 and gained a full game on the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, who lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks, respectively, on Wednesday.

The Lakers now trail the Jazz by just a game and a half, the Rockets by two games and the Golden State Warriors by four games with a month to go in the regular season, in what is shaping up as a four-team battle for the final three playoff slots in the Western Conference.

Center Dwight Howard bounced back from an anemic scoring effort against the Thunder to score 20 points and haul down 15 rebounds for Los Angeles, while reserve guard Jodie Meeks added 19 points, 15 of them on 3-pointers.

Point guard Steve Nash and power forward Earl Clark had very quiet nights, scoring just five points each.

Eric Gordon tallied 18 points for the Hornets, who fell to 21-41, while seven other New Orleans players also scored in double figures.

Venezuelan guard Greivis Vasquez notched a double-double with 15 points and 12 assists and reserve forward Ryan Anderson scored 14.

In other NBA action Wednesday, the Boston Celtics continued their strong play without injured point guard Rajon Rondo, defeating the Indiana Pacers 83-81 for their fourth straight win.

The defending champion Miami Heat stretched their winning streak to 16 games with a narrow 97-96 victory over the Orlando Magic, the Brooklyn Nets routed the Charlotte Bobcats 99-78, the New York Knicks topped the Detroit Pistons 87-77, and the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 107-96.

The Memphis Grizzlies downed the Portland Trail Blazers 91-85, the Minnesota Timberwolves edged the Washington Wizards 87-82, the San Antonio Spurs cruised past the Chicago Bulls 101-83, the Toronto Raptors trounced the Phoenix Suns 98-71, the Los Angeles Clippers pummeled the Milwaukee Bucks 117-101, and the Warriors topped the Kings 87-83.