Agence France Presse

Atlanta, March 3:

With Kobe Bryant absent at a pre-trial hearing on a sexual assault charge, the Los Angeles Lakers missed a handful of game-winning shots, losing to National Basketball Association weakling Atlanta.

Gary Payton and Shaquille O’Neal missed easy potential game-winners in the last seconds as the Lakers suffered a surprising 94-93 loss to the Hawks here on Tuesday.

Bryant spent Monday and Tuesday at a hearing in Colorado where he faces a felony rape charge. His last five games featured three contests of at least 35 points and a triple-double last Sunday against Washington.

With Bryant in the lineup, the Lakers had rolled to victories in their first two games of their four-game road trip. Without him, they clearly were missing a spark - and his flair for late-game heroics.

There were six lead changes and a tie in the last three minutes. Jason Terry pulled Atlanta into a 93-93 tie with a jumper with 54 seconds to go, then made 1-of-2 free throws after a similar play with 11 seconds left.

Payton, who had a triple-double, dribbled into the lane but missed an open 10-footer. O’Neal, who had 23 points and 14 rebounds, missed a pair of follow shots in a battle beneath the basket before time expired.

Terry scored 23 points and Stephen Jackson added 17 for the Hawks, who are 20-40 but have beaten NBA contenders Denver, Detroit, Dallas, Minnesota and San Antonio.