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Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009

Kobe leads Lakers to win over Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Kobe Bryant simply took a step forward, rebounded his missed free throw and easily made a jumper.

News photo
Just passing through: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives past Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey during their game on Sunday in Detroit. AP PHOTO

The Los Angeles Lakers star said it was luck.

The Detroit Pistons saw it differently.

Bryant scored 28 points and helped the Lakers build a big lead in a 93-81 victory over Detroit on Sunday night.

Los Angeles closed a five-game road trip with a four-game winning streak and an NBA-best 22-4 record, but Bryant says the defending champions can improve.

"It's a great sign," he said. "We believe we can be better and we will be better because we push each other."

Three of Detroit's best players wore sportcoats: Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince.

The Lakers, though, didn't have much sympathy because travel woes led to them getting to their Detroit-area hotel at 4 a.m. Sunday after beating the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.

Bryant said he fell asleep at about 6 a.m.

He looked more awake late in the first quarter, when Detroit allowed him to grab a ball that bounced in the lane after his miss at the line, setting him up for a shot that gave the Lakers a 22-13 lead.

"It's pretty rare," he said. "It's just luck."

The Pistons disagreed.

"Those are the little things that end up biting you in the butt," Detroit coach John Kuester said.

That wasn't the only play in which the Lakers played with more energy.

Los Angeles took the lead with an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter, started the second ahead by 12, had an 18-point lead at halftime and a 21-point cushion after three quarters.

"They were the aggressor," Kuester said. "That's the bottom line."

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson seemed to be resting Bryant, Ron Artest and Pau Gasol for the final quarter, but he put the trio back in with 5-plus minutes left and a 15-point lead.

"We answered the bell for about the first half of the first round," Jackson said. "After that, it was one of the our most poorly played games of the year.

"Even with the lead we had built, we still had to use our starters down the stretch to finish off the game. We've got to be better than this going forward."

Celtics 122, T-Wolves 104

In Boston, Paul Pierce scored 29 points and hit all six of his 3-point attempts, and the Celtics finished with a season high in points two nights after snapping an 11-game win streak.

Grizzlies 102, Nuggets 96

In Memphis, Zach Randolph had 32 points and a career-high 24 boards, the highest rebound total in the league this season.

Trail Blazers 102, Heat 95

In Miami, Brandon Roy scored 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 for Portland, which trailed by six with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

Raptors 98, Hornets 92

In Toronto, Chris Bosh had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Andrea Bargnani had 13 points and 11 boards.

Mavericks 102, Cavaliers 95

In Dallas, Tim Thomas took injured Dirk Nowitzki's spot in the starting lineup and scored 22 points.

Knicks 98, Bobcats 94

In New York, Wilson Chandler scored a season-high 26 points, Danilo Gallinari added 21 and a huge block in the closing seconds.

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