Asked specifically about the fourth quarter, Malone said of Bryant, "He's a competitor. Trying, all of that, that's who he is.
"Am I surprised he tried to do more? Not really. We've all got to realize as the season goes on, we can make it easier for each other. When we realize that, it'll be better. It's growing pains."
Bryant scored eight consecutive points in the fourth quarter, the last two on a short turn-around jumper with 3:35 remaining to bring the Lakers to within 95-86. By then, teammates were standing and watching. Bryant missed two long three-point attempts, and O'Neal attempted only two fourth-quarter field goals with the game in some doubt. Bryant finished with 19 points, O'Neal 20, Malone 13 and Payton six. Devean George, who scored 17 points, had the hottest hand, and was afforded two second-half shots.
Asked if Bryant's assertive fourth quarter were by design or of his own initiative, Jackson said, "I wouldn't choose either of those two options. It was not by design and I think he just felt he had to punch it up there. He just doesn't have the legs now for the three-point shots he was trying to take, so â€¦ "
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