LOS ANGELES (AP) –Dwight Howard had 31 points and 16 rebounds, Kobe Bryant also scored 31 points and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 104-88 Tuesday night for their second straight win after a six-game skid.
Metta World Peace added 12 points as the Lakers prepared for Thursday’s visit from the NBA champion Miami Heat with an impressive effort against the Bucks, who lost for the second time in five games under interim coach Jim Boylan.
Bryant and Howard both had 30-point games for the second time in their brief tenure together, and the Bucks couldn’t cope with Bryant’s outside game or Howard’s inside dominance.
Monta Ellis scored 17 points for Milwaukee, while Brandon Jennings was held to 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting largely by Bryant’s defense.
Howard again played with an obvious spark in his second game back from a three-game absence with a torn labrum in his shoulder, defending aggressively in the paint while overpowering the Bucks on offense. Bryant and Steve Nash focused on getting the ball to Howard close to the rim, and the six-time All-Star center capitalized against Milwaukee’s skinny post players.
Los Angeles snapped its longest losing streak in nearly six years with a win over Cleveland on Sunday. The Heat present a bigger challenge, but the Lakers will be grateful they’ve overcome many of their most glaring problems in the past two games.
Pau Gasol missed his fifth straight game for the Lakers with a concussion, but the 7-foot Spaniard worked out before the game and will be re-examined before Thursday’s game against Miami.
The Lakers took a slim lead into the fourth quarter, but steadily increased it through the final minutes with a 23-7 run. Bryant dipped into his usual array of acrobatic shots while also setting up Howard for points in the paint, and the five-time NBA champion left to a standing ovation with 3:07 left in his 22nd consecutive game with at least 20 points.
Jennings was the Eastern Conference’s player of the week for averaging 24.5 points in the last four games under Boylan’s leadership, but Bryant held him to two points in the first half. Jennings got going with a four-point play early in the third quarter, but never managed consistent production against Bryant and his teammates.
The Lakers’ starters clicked on offense early, building a 12-point lead in the first quarter with dominant play down low from Howard. Ellis kept the Bucks close with a first-half scoring spree against the Lakers’ reserves.
NOTES: Lakers G Steve Blake has pain in a muscle in his inner thigh, further delaying his return from abdominal surgery. The veteran point guard has played in just five games this season, sitting out since Nov. 11. … The Lakers passed the midway point of their home schedule with a 12-9 record at Staples Center. … Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and former Lakers and Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy attended the game. Mike Dunleavy Jr. had 10 points for the Bucks.