HOUSTON (AP) _ Kobe Bryant thought he was done for the night, until he had to go back into the game to help stop the Los Angeles Lakers from blowing a big, fourth-quarter lead.
Bryant scored 23 points and the Lakers overcame the loss of Lamar Odom and the Rockets' near-historic rally to beat Houston 102-94 Tuesday night.
The Lakers led by 27 points _ 93-66 _ with 9:45 left. Phil Jackson pulled Bryant 3 minutes later and Bryant started wrapping his knees in ice, figuring his night was over. However, Los Angeles didn't score another field goal until the last minute and the Rockets got within two before the Bryant and the Lakers pulled out the victory they should've sealed long before.
``I found it entertaining,'' said Bryant, who took off the ice and returned with the other starters with 4 minutes left. ``We had to come back out, just play defense and get things under control.
``That was the weirdest game I've ever been a part of. That's the first time I've put the ice on and had to come back out and play.''
Luke Walton added 18 points and seven assists for the Lakers, who shut down Yao Ming in the second half and snapped Houston's six-game home winning streak.
Yao scored 26 points _ just five in the second half _ to lead the Rockets, who played without Tracy McGrady. The six-time All-Star is out indefinitely with back spasms.
Two minutes into the game, Odom sprained his right knee when Shane Battier blocked him on a layup. Odom, the Lakers' leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, was taken to a hospital for an MRI exam. The Lakers said Odom suffered a moderate MCL sprain and Jackson said he'll be lucky to play again before the end of January.
In the other games Tuesday night, it was: Denver 100, Atlanta 87; Milwaukee 94, Seattle 93; and Golden State 126, Sacramento 113.
The Lakers led by three at the half, then outscored the Rockets 30-13 in the third quarter to seemingly take control. They shot 65 percent in the quarter, while the Rockets committed 10 turnovers and missed nine of 13 shots.
``We didn't respond the way good teams respond,'' Battier said. ``Hopefully, that's a lesson we can learn.''
In the fourth quarter, the Lakers' lead reached 26 points _ 90-64 _ with 10:22 left when Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy benched Yao, Battier and starting point guard Rafer Alston. The scrappy Rockets reserves held the Los Angeles leftovers without a field goal for 8 minutes and hit three 3-pointers during a 24-1 spurt.
The largest deficit the Rockets had ever overcome in a game is 23 points, done twice, the last time in 2001. Chuck Hayes' free throws with 1:38 left cut the Lakers' lead to 94-92.
However, Kwame Brown tipped in Bryant's miss, Steve Novak missed a 3-pointer at the other end and Smush Parker scored in the lane to stall the Houston rally.
Luther Head, who started for McGrady, went 4-for-8 from 3-point range and scored 21 points. Head and Hayes were the only starters on the floor when Houston started its comeback.
``The guys Coach put in at the end, we just said to ourselves, 'We've got nothing to lose,''' Head said. ``We had that confidence and we kept playing hard.''
Yao played well early, hitting five of his first six shots. But the Rockets missed four of their last five shots of the half and the Lakers finished with a 13-3 run to take a 54-51 lead at the break.
The Lakers opened the half with a 14-4 run as the Rockets turned sloppy, committing eight turnovers in the first 6 minutes.
``We didn't have the focus you need to have to play those guys,'' Battier said. ``You've really got to be on your game mentally.''
Nuggets 100, Hawks 87
Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points, Earl Boykins added 19 and visiting Denver dominated the fourth quarter to beat Atlanta.
The Nuggets outscored the Hawks 29-17 in the final period, turning a close game into a blowout. Atlanta missed its first 13 shots of the fourth and squandered four other possessions with turnovers.
Josh Smith had 21 points to lead the Hawks, who lost their third straight.
Bucks 94, SuperSonics 93
Michael Redd had 22 points and Ruben Patterson added 21 for host Milwaukee. Andrew Bogut had 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and made a free throw with 1:14 left to give the Bucks a 94-93 lead.
Seattle's Luke Ridnour failed to get off a desperation 3-pointer before the buzzer sounded.
Rashard Lewis led Seattle with 26 points, as the Sonics lost for the first time in four games without injured leading scorer Ray Allen.
Warriors 126, Kings 113
At Oakland, Calif., Matt Barnes set career highs with 32 points and 11 rebounds, and Andris Biedrins added 20 points and 14 rebounds for sharp-shooting Golden State.
Baron Davis had 14 points and 13 assists for the Warriors, who won for just the second time in seven games.
Kevin Martin scored 32 points and Ron Artest had 22 for the Kings, who lost their fourth straight road game.