By BETH HARRIS, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andrew Bynum scored 36 points, Kobe Bryant added 31 and the first-place Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the Clippers 113-108 on Wednesday night, widening their Pacific Division lead to 2½ games over the second-place Clippers and snapping their rival's winning streak at six games.
By taking two out of three against their Staples Center co-tenants, the Lakers also earned the head-to-head tiebreaker in a game that could help decide the division winner and playoff seeding in the West. The division winner will likely earn the No. 3 seed behind Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
Former Laker Caron Butler scored 28 points to lead six Clippers in double figures. Chris Paul added 22 points and 16 assists, Blake Griffin had 15 points and 14 rebounds, and DeAndre Jordan had 11 points and 13 rebounds for the West's fourth-place team — the designated home team. Their winning streak was the franchise's best in 20 years.
Ramon Sessions added 16 points and eight assists for the Lakers, who won their fourth in a row. Bynum bounced back with an offensive performance that was one point off his season high after missing one game with a sprained left ankle and running afoul of the front office with some questionable on-court behavior.
With the Lakers clinging to a two-point lead, Bryant hit a jumper over Randy Foye to make it 110-106 with 24 seconds left. Paul missed a jumper and Griffin was called for a loose ball foul on Pau Gasol, who made one of two free throws with 18 seconds left.
Griffin's tip drew the Clippers within three, but Nick Young fouled Matt Barnes, who made both free throws. Paul's turnover and foul gave the Lakers the ball with 4 seconds to go, ending the Clippers' chances to win the season series for the first in 19 years.
The Clippers trailed by 11 to start the fourth and scored the first eight points to get to 92-89. Young had nine of their first 12 points. Eric Bledsoe hit a 3-pointer to get the Clippers to 98-96. The final 7 minutes were a four-point game.
Paul's jumper tied it at 102 and the Clippers took their first lead, 104-103, since early in the game on Jordan's hook.
Bryant scored over Butler and then Metta World Peace stole the ball from Paul. Bynum got fouled and made one of two free throws to put the Lakers back in front, 106-104. After consecutive turnovers by both teams, Sessions scored on a driving layup with 47 seconds left to keep the Lakers ahead by four.
The Lakers led 73-61 early in the third quarter. The Clippers rallied on a 12-5 run that cut their deficit to five points. Griffin dunked one-handed over Gasol, who argued that Griffin had fouled him with the monster move that sent Gasol staggering toward the floor. But Griffin drew the foul and missed the free throw. Jordan dunked to reinvigorate the crowd and Butler scored the final five points in the spurt.
But the Lakers answered with a 14-8 run to end the third up 92-78. Bynum had seven points and Bryant six.
Jordan made a great play after trying to save the ball from going out of bounds with a leap over the courtside seats. His save got intercepted by the Lakers, but he climbed back over the seats and took off running. He dashed up behind Sessions and poked the ball away, leading to a 3-pointer by Butler to end the third.
The Lakers led 63-55 at halftime, scoring easily in the paint against the Clippers' porous defense. Bryant had 18 points and Bynum 17 in the half, while Butler was the only Clipper in double figures with 23. The Lakers scored the first seven points of the second quarter to build a 12-point lead, their largest of the half. Butler scored 13 of the Clippers' final 14 points in the second, including three 3-pointers.
NOTES: The Clippers' seven-game home winning streak ended. ... There were 11 technicals in the teams' first two meetings, but there was just one individual technical against Sessions. ... Foye came in averaging 21.6 points and 3.3 assists in the Clippers' last three games, but he finished with 11 points and four assists. ... The Lakers improved to 12-15 on the road. ... The Clippers fell to 19-13 against teams with .500 or better records.
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