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Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012

In-form Kobe torches Cavaliers for 42 points S


LOS ANGELES — Even Kobe Bryant has to acknowledge he's on his most impressive scoring tear in a half-decade, decimating opponents' defenses with the flair and determination of the Los Angeles Lakers superstar's best seasons.

News photo
Extra gear: Minnesota's Kevin Love drives past Jason Smith of the Hornets in the second half on Friday night. The Timberwolves won 87-80. AP

And he's got a little more bad news for the Cleveland Cavaliers and every other opponent in his way.

That severely injured wrist on his shooting hand?

It's starting to heal.

Bryant scored 42 points in his third straight 40-point performance, and the Lakers blew a big early lead before hanging on for their fifth straight victory, 97-92 over Cleveland on Friday night.

Bryant managed just seven points in the fourth quarter, but two big jumpers down the stretch gave him three straight 40-point games for the first time since March 2007, when he had five straight. With just three of his teammates managing more than one field goal, the 13-time All-Star guard did most of Los Angeles' heavy lifting despite that torn ligament in his right wrist — an injury that would require most players to shut it down for a stretch.

Nobody is shutting down Kobe, who has scored at least 30 points in seven of his last eight games.

"The wrist is feeling stronger, feeling more comfortable," Bryant said. "It's just motivation. Nobody wants to hear about a bad wrist as being the reason why I had a bad game. Nobody wants to hear excuses."

None necessary: Bryant is third in NBA history with 110 40-point games, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.

Pau Gasol had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who won their eighth consecutive game at Staples Center since Christmas. Until Bryant took charge, Los Angeles allowed a 19-point lead to dwindle to three in the final minutes of coach Mike Brown's first meeting with the Cavaliers since they fired him in 2010.

"We have to make sure we keep executing offensively so we don't need to rely on (Bryant) so much," Brown said. "It's good to have a guy like Kobe Bryant in your pocket."

Kyrie Irving scored 21 points and Ramon Sessions added 12 for the Cavaliers, who have played eight of their first 11 games on the road. Cleveland foundered in the first half before rallying impressively in the second half, avoiding anything close to the embarrassment of last season's 112-57 debacle at Staples Center.

Nuggets 117, Heat 104

In Denver, Ty Lawson returned from a sprained right foot to score 24 points, and the Nuggets sent Miami to its third straight loss.

LeBron James had 35 points for the Heat, who have lost their last 10 games in Denver.

Nene added 17 points for the Nuggets. Rudy Fernandez and Al Harrington each had 15 points.

Nets 110, Suns 103

In Phoenix, Deron Williams had 35 points, his most since coming to New Jersey at last season's trade deadline, and 14 assists as the Nets held off the short-handed Suns for just their third victory in 12 games this season.

Bulls 88, Celtics 79

In Boston, Derrick Rose returned from a one-game absence to score 25 points and help Chicago hold off a second-half charge and beat the Celtics.

Timberwolves 87, Hornets 80

In New Orleans, Kevin Love scored 34 points, Ricky Rubio hit the tiebreaking free throws in his first career start, and Minnesota beat the hosts.

Rubio finished with 12 points and nine assists. Love had 17 points in the third quarter and also grabbed 15 rebounds for his 11th consecutive double-double.

Spurs 99, Trail Blazers 83

In San Antonio, Tony Parker scored 20 points to help the Spurs down Portland and stay unbeaten at home.

Parker shook off a slow start as San Antonio (8-4) improved to 8-0 at home, its best start since the 2007-08 season when it started 13-0.

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 29 points.

Mavericks 102, Bucks 76

In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki went over 23,000 career points, Vince Carter had his highest-scoring game in Dallas and the Mavericks stretched their winning streak to four games.

Carter had 11 of his 16 points in the first 6½ minutes of the game.

76ers 120, Wizards 89

In Philadelphia, Jodie Meeks tied a career high with 26 points, Lou Williams had 19 and Spencer Hawes added 10 points and 10 rebounds to help the Sixers beat Washington.

Pacers 95, Raptors 80

In Toronto, Tyler Hansbrough made two key free throws with less than 15 seconds to play and Indiana overcame the ejection of leading scorer Danny Granger to beat the Raptors.

Pistons 98, Bobcats 81

In Charlotte, Jonas Jerebko tied a career high with 22 points and Detroit won the race to three victories against the hosts.

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