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National Basketball Association
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                 === Kobe, Lakers attempt to solve Clippers ===
 (Sports  Network) -  Kobe Bryant  has displayed  no love  for the  Los Angeles
 Clippers in two meetings this season, but the Lakers have lost both games. The
 five-time  NBA champion  looks to lead his squad to victory on Valentine's Day
 versus the Clippers at Staples Center.
 Bryant  is  averaging 39.0 ppg in  two matchups with the Clippers this season,
 scoring  40 points in a 105-95 loss Nov. 2 and following that performance with
 38  points in  a 107-102  decision  Jan. 4.  In  62 career  games against  the
 Clippers -- the most against any opponent -- Bryant is averaging 26.0 ppg.
 Thursday's  matchup  will feature a handful  of All-Stars from the city of Los
 Angeles,  which includes  Bryant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
 All  four  will start  Sunday at Houston  in the 62nd  edition of the All-Star
 game.  Bryant  was asked  how important  it is to  get this  win tonight so he
 doesn't  have to hear possible banter from the Clippers' Paul and Griffin this
 "I'm not worried about that. They can't tell me nothing anyway."
 Bryant  was probably  referring to  his five  titles, four  All-Star game  MVP
 awards  and  30,000-plus career points. He  did, however, say the Clippers are
 "entertaining"  and  "exciting" to watch. In  order to stop Paul, Bryant added
 that  keeping  him out  of the  paint and playing  physical defense will work.
 Getting  bodies  on Clippers bigs DeAndre  Jordan and Griffin will limit their
 second-chance opportunities, according to Bryant.
 The Lakers have lost three of the last five meetings with their Staples Center
 co-tenants,  but  are 11-2  in the  previous 13  matchups as  the host in this
 series.  These two  L.A. teams will meet  again April 7, while the Lakers have
 lost just two season series in team history (92-93, 74-75) to the Clippers.
 Bryant  was held  to a season-low four  points in Tuesday's 91-85 win over the
 Phoenix  Suns in the  opener of a four-game homestand. He did hand out a game-
 best  nine assists  and grab  five rebounds,  while his  four points  were the
 fewest  in  a game in which  he started and played  at least 11 minutes in his
 "I  think that  the important thing for  us is the message of playing for each
 other,"  said Bryant, who's fourth in the NBA with 27.0 ppg. "If you sacrifice
 individual  numbers so  be it. Who the  hell cares? It's about doing the right
 thing as a group."
 Dwight Howard led the Lakers with 19 points and a game-best 18 rebounds, while
 Antawn  Jamison also netted 19 points and grabbed 10 boards. Metta World Peace
 posted 17 for Los Angeles, which has won eight of 11 games overall and four in
 a row at home. The Lakers, coming off a 4-3 Grammy road trip, are 16-10 as the
 host and 10th in the Western Conference standings, three games behind Houston.
 The  Lakers will also entertain Boston and Portland on the homestand after the
 All-Star  break.  In milestone news for  the Lakers, veteran point guard Steve
 Nash  is three points shy of 17,000 in his career. He already owns 10,000-plus
 assists  (10,132) and  is 10 assists shy  of passing Lakers Hall of Fame point
 guard Magic Johnson (10,141) for fourth on the all-time list.
 Meanwhile,  the Clippers  have won  three in  a row  and four  of five  games,
 including  Wednesday's 106-96  win over the Rockets. The Clips exploded for 46
 first-quarter points (46-28) and held on the rest of the way.
 The  Clippers, who  went 4-4 on their  recent Grammy road trip, caught a break
 when Rockets All-Star James Harden missed the game with a sprained right ankle
 and sore left knee.
 Griffin  tallied  20 points and 11  rebounds, while Chauncey Billups and Caron
 Butler  scored  19 points  apiece for the  Clippers, who got  10 points and 11
 assists from Paul. Butler had 17 points in the red-hot first quarter.
 "Chauncey hit some great shots. He was hot early. Caron really got us off to a
 good  start and  did a good job  defensively, which was good to see," Clippers
 coach Vinny Del Negro said.
 The 19 points for Billups, who is back from a ruptured Achilles, were the most
 since he had 18 at Orlando last Feb. 6.
 Del Negro's group is third in the West standings and 17-12 on the road. It has
 won  two  in a row and  three of four games  as the visitor. The Clippers will
 play three in a row at home following Sunday's All-Star extravaganza.
 02/14 10:34:48 ET

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