MILWAUKEE, April 1,2009(AP) The Los Angeles Lakers were happy to finally head home after a long road trip, and even happier to shake off two straight losses.
But even in the wake of Wednesday night's 104-98 victory over Milwaukee - their fifth win in a grueling seven-game road trip - coach Phil Jackson still wasn't pleased with the way his team played defense.
"That's been a problem of ours on this road trip, is to allow teams to shoot well and get a lot of layups - which is a high-percentage shot, obviously,'' Jackson said. "We tried to stop that. I still wasn't happy with it.''
Kobe Bryant rebounded from a rough shooting night in Tuesday's loss at Charlotte to go 7-for-7 in the first half and score 30 points. Bryant cooled off after halftime, but Pau Gasol took control by scoring eight of his 15 in the fourth quarter.
Still, the Lakers still allowed the Bucks to shoot 56.8 percent in the first half, trailed by one going into the fourth quarter and had to fend off a last-minute Bucks rally after taking the lead with an 11-2 run midway through the fourth quarter.
"It was tough,'' Bryant said. "The first three and a half quarters, something like that, it seemed like we were kind of stuck in the mud a little bit. We were able to hang in there with them and got something going.''
But despite consecutive losses at Atlanta and Charlotte and some lapses in Wednesday's win, they'll take a 5-2 record on the road trip.
"It was a good trip,'' Bryant said. "We had two tough games, but we bounced back from that and didn't let those losses get past two.''
Lamar Odom added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers.
Ramon Sessions had his first career triple-double for the Bucks, who fell four games out of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
Despite briefly leaving the game with a shoulder stinger early in the fourth quarter, Sessions finished with 16 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds.
"I wish we could have gotten the win,'' Sessions said. "But that's something I dreamt about night in and night out.''
With Milwaukee leading by two early in the fourth quarter, Gasol dunked and was fouled, completing the three-point play to give the Lakers an 85-84 lead and kick off an 11-2 run to take a 93-86 lead with just over six minutes left.
But a late a 3-pointer by Richard Jefferson and a jumper by Charlie Villanueva cut the Lakers' lead to five with 2:39 left. Sessions then made a pair of free throws with 52 seconds left to cut the lead to three.
Bryant missed a jumper, but Jordan Farmar corralled a long rebound and Bryant was fouled, putting the game away with a pair of free throws.
"Really the whole second half, they turned up their level of play a little bit,'' Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We didn't come out poorly or anything like that, we just weren't quite as sharp.''
Bryant made shot after shot in the first half, despite being challenged by Bucks rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the team's best defender.
"He's a good defensive player,'' Bryant said. "I told him during the game, it's important for him to continue to work. I like his energy, I like his effort. You don't see a lot of players who understand the value of playing hard defensively.''
Bryant, who was 11-for-28 from the field in Tuesday's loss at Charlotte, finally missed with 11:22 left in the third quarter, but was fouled on the 3-point attempt and made all three free throws to give the Lakers a 60-59 lead.
Bryant's first miss that counted came a few minutes later, clanking one off the front of the rim at the 9:56 mark. Milwaukee then went on an 11-3 run that began with three scores by Dan Gadzuric - a forceful dunk that left him holding his finger in pain, a turnaround jumper and driving layup.
Milwaukee led by as many as six points in the third quarter, taking a 70-64 lead on a fast-break dunk by Sessions with 6:10 left, and led 81-80 going into the fourth quarter.
Notes: Bucks center Francisco Elson went to the floor with a strained right hip flexor at the 1:24 mark of the third quarter. He did not return and is expected to have X-rays Thursday. ... Injured Bucks guard Michael Redd was presented with his championship ring from the U.S. Olympic team before the game. "He is like a brother to me,'' said Bryant, a fellow Olympian. "He's really cool and I'm just going to be there for him and make sure he gets back to 100 percent for next season.'' ... Jefferson finished with 29 points for Milwaukee.