Bryant torches Rockets; Deng powers Bulls
LOS ANGELES—Kobe Bryant rediscovered his scoring touch to tally 37 points and lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the top spot in the Pacific division with a 108-99 win over the visiting Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
Bryant, who had connected on just 26 percent of his shots over his previous two games, finally caught fire against the Rockets while teammate Andrew Bynum had 21 points and 22 rebounds as the Lakers got their fourth win in five games.
“I just had to make some adjustments,” Bryant told reporters as he continues to play with an injured right wrist. “Some shots (it) hurts, some it doesn’t, so it’s inconsistent. But you have to find a rhythm.”
Los Angeles held an 82-81 lead with about 10 minutes remaining of a previously tight contest but outscored the Rockets 18-8 over the next eight minutes, led by nine points from Bryant during the stretch.
Bryant made 14-of-29 shots and also had eight rebounds and six assists.
The win moved the Lakers (4-3) a half-game in front of the cross-town Clippers in the division. The Rockets (2-3), meanwhile, have lost all three of their road games this season.
Houston’s Kyle Lowry just missed a triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists while Luis Scola added 20 points.
The visitors stayed in touch with the Lakers throughout the game, trailing by four at half time and just one after three quarters, but they were pounded on the inside.
Los Angeles grabbed a 53-38 advantage in rebounds led by 7-footer Bynum.
After being suspended the first four games of the season because of a flagrant foul during the last postseason contest, Bynum has exploded back onto the scene with three straight double-figure games in points and rebounds.
“Rebounding the basketball is big. It’s important to us, and it’s something I’ve been working on,” Bynum said. “I’ve been doing a lot of work before practice. I’m super confident right now.”
In Chicago, Luol Deng’s lay-up with 3.7 seconds to play lifted the Chicago Bulls to a nail-biting 76-74 comeback victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Derrick Rose scored 17 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Bulls from a 19-point deficit. Coming out of a timeout with the score tied in the final seconds, Deng cut along the baseline and took a feed from Joakim Noah to put Chicago ahead.
Atlanta’s Joe Johnson shot an airball at the buzzer, giving the Bulls the win.
Rose had missed a runner with 21 seconds left, but Atlanta’s Jeff Teague then missed two free throws. Rose scored with 9.9 seconds left to put the Bulls up 74-73.
Al Horford, who led the Hawks with 16 points, was fouled and split two free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining.
In Salt Lake City, Al Jefferson scored a season-high 26 points to lead Utah past undermanned Milwaukee, 85-73.
Paul Millsap had 13 points and 12 rebounds, hitting a jump shot to clinch the game with 1:07 to play.
Drew Gooden had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Bucks, who missed the inside presence of center Andrew Bogut, who was absent for personal reasons, while Mike Dunleavy was out with groin pain.
In Oklahoma City, LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and eight rebounds to help the Portland Trail Blazers whip the Thunder, 103-93.
Wesley Matthews added 16 points for the Blazers, who held the Thunder to 34 percent shooting in the second half on an off night for All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook scored 22 points on 8-for-18 shooting and Durant finished with 19 points while hitting 8 of 26 shots. James Harden made his sixth career start and led the Thunder with 23 points.
In Memphis, Rudy Gay scored 23 points as the Grizzlies crushed the Sacramento Kings, 113-96.
Sam Young added 20 points for the Grizzlies.
In Cleveland, Kyrie Irving scored, 20 points and fellow rookie Tristan Thompson added 16, leading the Cavaliers to a 115-101 rout of the Charlotte Bobcats.