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Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012
Lakers keep win streak alive
LOS ANGELES — The pieces of the puzzle that have been the Lakers' confounding season so far are starting to fall into place.
Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, the defense stepped up, and Los Angeles beat the New York Knicks 100-94 on Tuesday, extending its winning streak to five games.
"We're .500," a smiling Dwight Howard said. "We did it on Christmas, too. I knew this day would come."
Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. Anthony said he hyperextended his left knee, but expects to play on Wednesday in Phoenix.
Bryant, the league's leading scorer, has topped 30 or more points in nine straight games.
"If you're going to play on Christmas, it's always better to win. Makes it all worthwhile," said Bryant, who would soon hop a flight to Denver, getting there ahead of the Nuggets, who played the Clippers in the other half of the holiday doubleheader at Staples Center.
The Lakers improved to 14-14 — 9-9 under new coach Mike D'Antoni — and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home. They returned to .500 for the first time since they were 8-8 on Nov. 30.
"It's so early in the season to have turned a corner," Bryant said. "We have everybody in the lineup and we're starting to see how we want to play."
The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five as the Lakers' defense clamped down. World Peace fouled out with 1:58 to play and the Lakers ahead by four.
World Peace credited his defense on Anthony to "old-school basketball."
"I'm back in shape and it's a little tough to guard me," he said.
Steve Nash said: "This is what he's been doing all year. He gets his hands on a lot of balls, pounds on the other team's best guy. You can't win without that type of effort."
Smith's 3-pointer pulled New York to 96-94. After Pau Gasol made one of two free throws, Smith missed another 3 that would have tied the game at 97 with 32 seconds left.
"We missed a lot of easy shots, a lot of little chippers around the basket, shots that we normally make," Anthony said. "There were some plays that we thought should have went our way down the stretch, but for the most part, we fought. I'll take this effort any night. If we continue to play with this effort, we'll win a lot of games."
With Bryant double-teamed, Nash passed to Gasol, who dunked with 12 seconds to go, punctuating a win that sent Lakers fans, frustrated by the team's struggles and coaching change, home happy. Los Angeles avenged a 116-107 loss in New York on Dec. 13.
A smiling Howard called Gasol's driving slam "a submarine dunk because he was very low to the ground."
Gasol responded, "I don't dunk as often as I used to so it felt good. I took it right down the lane and finished strong."
Clippers 112, Nuggets 100
In Los Angeles, Jamal Crawford led a dominant performance by the Clippers reserves with 22 points, and Los Angeles beat Denver to extend its franchise-record winning streak to 14 games.
Matt Barnes added 20 points — one off his season high — as the bench outscored the Clippers starters 64-48.
Heat 103, Thunder 97
In Miami, LeBron James finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 21, and the Heat survived a frantic finish to beat Oklahoma City in an NBA Finals rematch.
Mario Chalmers scored a season-high 20 for Miami, which matched the franchise's best 25-game start at 19-6. Chris Bosh added 16 for Miami, which has beaten the Thunder five straight times going back to last June's title series.
Kevin Durant scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potentially game-tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each added 15 for the Thunder, who have dropped two straight for the first time this season.
Celtics 93, Nets 76
In New York, Rajon Rondo scored 19 points in his first full game against Brooklyn this season, and Boston beat the Nets in another game with heated moments between the division rivals.
Rondo, sidelined in the first meeting and thrown out of the second after shoving Nets forward Kris Humphries into the courtside seats, outplayed counterpart Deron Williams and helped the Celtics take control early.
Rockets 120, Bulls 97
In Chicago, James Harden scored 26 points and Jeremy Lin added 20 points and 11 assists to lead Houston past the Bulls. Omer Asik had 20 points and 18 rebounds in his first trip back to Chicago since signing with the Rockets in the offseason.
Every Houston starter scored in double figures.