Kobe Bryant scored 18 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter on Wednesday as the Los Angeles Lakers beat New Orleans Hornets 113-107, disappointing the standing room crowd that put aside its Hurricane Katrina problems for a night of cheering on its team.
It was the first professional sporting event in New Orleans since the Aug. 29 storm destroyed much of the city, scattered residents across the US and sent the Hornets to Oklahoma City for the season.
Hornets owner George Shinn had worried about the city's ability to supply a crowd for the game -- the first of three to be played in New Orleans this season. Only an estimated 189,000 of the city's roughly 465,000 pre-Katrina residents have returned. But the game was a sellout, with 17,744 people jammed in and the Arena's US$10 million restoration ready for the crowd and the game.
Hornets forward Desmond Mason's layup with 3:16 left tied it at 97. But Bryant's 3-pointer at 2:19 put the Lakers ahead 100-97 and the Hornets could never catch up.
Lamar Odom had 18 points and 17 rebounds for Los Angeles, Smush Parker had 16 points and Sasha Vujacic had 10.
David West led the Hornets with 25 points, Chris Paul and Speedy Claxton each scored 22 and Aaron Williams added 10. Paul also had 10 rebounds.
Heat 118, Wizards 112
At Miami, Dwyane Wade returned from a two-game absence to score 40 points and lead Miami past Washington for its 10th straight win.
Wade, who missed the previous two games with a sprained right wrist, has scored 115 points in three games this season against Washington. His running jumper in the lane gave Miami a 114-112 lead with 21 seconds left.
Pistons 106, Bulls 101
At Auburn Hills, Michigan, Richard Hamilton scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to help Detroit improve to 27-2 at home.
The Bulls scored 37 points in the fourth -- a quarter that saw four players score at least 10 points -- but gave up 38.
Cavaliers 98, Raptors 97
At Toronto, Damon Jones made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Cleveland over Toronto for its fourth straight victory.
Toronto's Morris Peterson had given Toronto the lead with a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left, but a double-teamed LeBron James found a wide-open Jones in the corner for the winning bucket.
James scored 35 points for the Cavaliers.
Celtics 104, 76ers 101
At Boston, Paul Pierce had his first triple-double of the season with 31 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to rally Boston past Philadelphia.
After Allen Iverson's jumper gave Philadelphia a 99-94 lead with 1:34 remaining, Pierce scored eight straight points for Boston, including a pair of 3-pointers, to put the Celtics up 100-99.
Bobcats 104, Warriors 101
At Charlotte, North Carolina, Jumaine Jones scored 29 points, including a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds to play, and Charlotte battled back in the fourth quarter to beat Golden State.
Golden State has lost 17 of its last 20 road games.
Kings 123, Bucks 116
At Milwaukee, Mike Bibby scored 36 points, and Sacramento tied its season high for points in a win over Milwaukee.
The Kings scored 69 first-half points en route to their fifth win in six games. The Bucks have lost seven of nine.
Rockets 103, Pacers 99
At Houston, Yao Ming scored a season-high 38 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Houston rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter to beat Indiana.