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Through four quarters and a five-minute overtime, Kobe Bryant and Raja Bell fought and clawed with each other. Bell incurred a technical foul in the first period. The two pushed and shoved each other at the end of regulation. The competition reached a fever pitch on more than one occasion.
And then, following the Lakers 90-87 win over the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday night, the two went at it again in their respective locker rooms.
First, Bell weighed in. "If he's going to take 31 shots to get 40, then that's pretty much all you can do. Anyone shooting 31 shots should score 40."
Bryant had his say as well. "He can't stop me. He knows that. But he's good enough to make it interesting."
It was an interesting subplot to an enticing game, and a continuation of a rivalry between the two that's been going on since Bell's days with the Phoenix Suns.
On Wednesday night, Bryant's team got the best of the Jazz, as he scored 40 points, a night after torching the Suns, ironically, for a season-high 48.
Bell, however, refused to make it easy. He forced Bryant off his favorite spots. He tried his best to harass him, to get inside of his head mentally. He stopped Bryant, man-to-man, with regulation winding down.
Down the stretch, however, it was Bryant who drew the last laugh, making two free-throws with 0.7 seconds remaining, and then blocking a Devin Harris shot at the buzzer.
"It felt good to get one here," Bryant said. This is a very tough place to play and it was a huge test for us."
This is why the Jazz acquired Bell, to be a defensive stopper on the perimeter. For the most part, he delivered against the Lakers.
He did the same thing last Saturday against the Golden State Warriors, locking Monta Ellis up at the end to preserve Utah's first road win of the season.
Slowly, Bell has begun to play much better. He's even providing offense, hitting several jumpers last night and posing a threat to score, something he wasn't doing earlier.
But none of that means much to him, or the Jazz, since they couldn't pull out a winnable game.
"I felt like we had several great opportunities tonight and feel like we did some things well as a team," Bell said. "But we're alright. We just have to go back to the drawing board."
Busy night for Bell
• Jazz guard Raja Bell scores 7 points on 3-for-4 shooting.
• He forces Kobe Bryant into 31 shots for his 40 points.
• Bell fouls out down the stretch in overtime.