Bryant's 37 lead Lakers past Rockets

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 04, 2012
Kobe Bryant scored 37 points, Andrew Bynum had 21 points and 22 rebounds in the first 20-20 game of his career, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Houston Rockets 108-99 Tuesday night for their fourth victory in five games. Pau Gasol scored 14 points for the Lakers against the franchise that tried to acquire him in a three-team trade in the offseason, and the Lakers survived a tight fourth quarter with Bryant's brilliance and tough defense, holding the Rockets without a field goal for just under 6 minutes. Kobe eventually took over, scoring seven consecutive points down the stretch of the Lakers' third straight win over the Rockets at home. Kyle Lowry scored 22 points and Luis Scola added 20 for the Rockets, who opened a three-game trip with their eighth loss in 11 road games against the Lakers. Kevin Martin had 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting, missing seven of his eight 3-point attempts. Rockets swingman Courtney Lee had to be helped off the court with 10:40 to play after he collapsed in obvious pain from his right leg on a noncontact play in front of the Lakers' bench. Lee, who scored nine points, couldn't put weight on the same leg that bothered him with cramps during training camp. The Lakers were smooth down the stretch in their seventh game in 10 days, matching Oklahoma City for the NBA's busiest early-season schedule. Houston scored six straight points to trim Los Angeles' lead to 93-89 with 3:54 to play, but Bryant hit a jumper and converted a three-point play on consecutive possessions before willing home a fallaway jumper with 1:59 left, putting the Lakers ahead by 11. Bynum had another dominant low-post performance in his third game back from suspension, barely missing his career-high of 23 rebounds in his second career 20-rebound game. The Lakers also got a solid game from fellow 7-footer Gasol, who was nearly traded to the Rockets last month in a three-team deal for Chris Paul, but the trade was scuttled by the NBA. The Lakers are still adjusting to new coach Mike Brown's schemes and standards, as evidenced by their inconsistency -- an 0-2 start and three straight wins followed by an unsightly loss at Denver on New Year's Day which featured a 6-for-28 shooting performance by Bryant. So with a jam-packed schedule leaving no time to practice, Brown is teaching whenever possible. He watched a DVD of the Denver loss with Bryant on the plane ride home, analyzing every shot -- and his staff did the same with every significant player over the last 24 hours. Los Angeles led by eight points in the first half, but Houston led for much of the third quarter on 11 points by Chase Budinger, who finished with 16. Bryant spent the first few minutes of the fourth quarter in the locker room, but returned to the game after Bynum and four reserves kept the Lakers ahead. NOTES: Lakers F Josh McRoberts sat out with a sprained left big toe. ... The Rockets will stay in town to play the Clippers at Staples Center on Wednesday. ... Fans near courtside included Ashton Kutcher, Alex Rodriguez, Torrie Wilson, Cindy Crawford, Rande Gerber, Tom Petty and Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.
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