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Kobe fires Lakers to 2-1 lead

KOBE Bryant top-scored with 33 points to help the Los Angeles Lakers take control of their Western Conference semifinal series with a 108-94 road victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday.

In the Eastern Conference, the Orlando Magic overpowered a weary Boston Celtics side 117-96 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Bryant sank a three-pointer to put the Lakers up by 11 points with 2:20 left, and snuff out any hope of a snatched victory for the Rockets, who now trail 1-2 in the best-of-seven series.

"That three, I had to pull the string on that one and it went in for me," Bryant told reporters after finishing 11-for-28 from the field and making four triples.

"We had to get stops. I thought at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarter we did a good job of getting stops and slowing them down."

Lamar Odom added 16 points and 13 rebounds and Jordan Farmer recorded 12 points and seven assists in place of regular starting point guard Derek Fisher, who was suspended for an altercation with Houston's Luis Scola in Game 2.

Game 3 had no signs of the rough play that turned testy in Game 2 until the final minute, when Houston's Ron Artest was ejected for a hard foul on Pau Gasol. Artest, who had a team-high 25 points for the Rockets on Friday, was also ejected from Game 2 for a verbal altercation.

Yao Ming finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds before leaving the game in the final minutes with a lower leg injury, which may cloud Houston's preparations for Game 4 tomorrow.

In the East, Rashard Lewis scored a game-high 28 points and Hedo Turkoglu shot 24 to help the hosts Magic put away the champions Celtics.

"We got good performances out of virtually everyone and obviously we had a great shooting night," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after his team shot 59 percent from the field. "That's the kind of effort it's going to take, but we have to get our mind on Game 4 very quickly."

Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 27 points, after a paltry three-point return in Game 2.

Orlando, which squandered a 28-point lead in Game 1 before closing out a 95-90 nail-biter, held firm as Boston made a late charge to cut a 20-point deficit to trail 75-83 with 10:15 remaining.

The Magic stepped up a gear, however, to put the result beyond doubt with an offensive run that left them leading 109-87 with three minutes on the clock.

Dwight Howard more than covered for the loss of suspended point guard Rafer Alston, shooting 17, and making 14 rebounds and five blocks for the Magic. Anthony Johnson chipped in with 13 points.

Orlando's Courtney Lee scored 11 points in his first action of the series after he fractured his sinus during the first round, while Eddie House had 15 points for Boston.


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