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Lakers' Bryant suffering from all the attention

Kobe Bryant had a simple explanation for his shooting problems during the final three quarters of the 108-104 loss to the Orlando Magic.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is double-teamed by Mickael Pietrus and Dwight Howard, right, of the Orlando Magic in the fourth quarter of Game Three.
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is double-teamed by Mickael Pietrus and Dwight Howard, right, of the Orlando Magic in the fourth quarter of Game Three.

ORLANDO // Kobe Bryant had a simple explanation for his shooting problems during the final three quarters of the Los Angeles Lakers' 108-104 loss to the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. The 2008 MVP said Orlando abandoned single coverage on him and had "four more guys" leaning on him. "They threw the whole kitchen sink and they did a great job staying on my body," Bryant said. "They brought help from the weak side, simple as that." Bryant possibly overstated the Magic's obsession with guarding him, but the tactic clearly worked. Bryant scored 17 points on seven-of-10 shooting in the opening quarter, but he had only 14 points for the remaining three, making only four-of-15 shots.

After the first quarter, Bryant made only two of seven three pointers and four of nine from the free throw line. He also had a critical turnover with less than a minute left in the game. With the Magic up by 104-102 Bryant lost the ball and then fouled Mickael Pietrus out of frustration. Pietrus calmly sank both free throws to secure the Magic's first win in the finals and trim the Lakers' lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

"It was disappointing," said Bryant. "I'm used to coming through in those situations, the team trusts me to come through in those situations, and it just didn't happen tonight." The Lakers coach Phil Jackson defended Bryant, but conceded his uncharacteristically poor free throwing played a role in the loss. "A number of them went in and came back out," Jackson said of Bryant's shooting from the line.

"Those are the kinds of things that change a game. "This is a very unusual thing, Kobe shooting five-for-10 after hitting 14 in a row at the end of the game the other night. That's a difference maker." Orlando have turned around their woeful shooting percentage in the first game, where they made just 29.9 per cent of shots, and on Tuesday connected on 40 of 64 shots for a 62.5 percentage ? a record for the finals.

"Obviously, you've got to knock down free throws but we lost this game on the defensive end," said Bryant. "We had been playing very good defence, and the team tonight shoots 62 per cent from the field, 69 per cent the first half. "We've got to do a better job defensively." * Reuters