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Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013

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Access denied: Los Angeles' Dwight Howard (left) blocks a shot by Milwaukee's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute during the Lakers' 104-88 win on Tuesday. AP

Bryant, Howard overwhelm Bucks as Lakers gear up for Heat


LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant played relentless defense, spurring his fellow Los Angeles Lakers to do the same. Dwight Howard dominated the paint, scoring easy baskets and blocking shots against the bewildered Bucks.

Over the last two games, the Lakers have resembled the powerhouse everybody envisioned before their tumultuous season began.

They're about to find out whether they've gotten it together in time to compete with the Miami Heat.

Howard had 31 points and 16 rebounds, Bryant also scored 31 points and the Lakers beat Milwaukee 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 Heat with an impressive effort featuring 30-point games for both Bryant and Howard for the second time in their brief tenure together. After a similar effort against Cleveland two days earlier, the Lakers are cautiously optimistic they've solved a few problems.

"It's been great," Howard said. "When we play the way we played these last two games, I don't see anybody beating us. The problem is we have to do it on a consistent basis and not have any lapses during the game. We're learning, but stuff like that takes time. The biggest thing, we've just got to stick together. We can't let nothing on the outside tear us apart."

Howard again played with an obvious spark in his second game back from a three-game absence with a torn labrum in his shoulder, blocking four shots and goaltending a couple more when he wasn't busy overpowering the Bucks on offense. Bryant and Steve Nash, who had 11 assists, 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.

"That's what we try to do," Bryant said. "A lot of it is predicated defensively on what the opposition does and what they're willing to give up. We've been knocking down some shots and putting me on the same side with (Howard) when Steve runs that screen-and-roll. I've knocked down some shots, and it frees him up and makes it a lot easier to get some baskets."

Clippers 117, Rockets 109

In Houston, Jamal Crawford scored a season-high 30 points, including 12 straight to start the fourth quarter, and the Clippers looked just fine without Chris Paul.

Nuggets 115, Blazers 111 (OT)

In Denver, Wilson Chandler hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 14.9 seconds remaining in overtime and the Nuggets beat Portland for their season-best sixth consecutive victory.

Pacers 103, Bobcats 76

In Charlotte, Roy Hibbert had 18 points and seven rebounds, and Indiana handed the Bobcats their 13th straight home loss.

Nets 113, Raptors 106

In New York, Brook Lopez had 22 points and nine rebounds, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams each scored 21 points, and Brooklyn beat Toronto to extend its season-high winning streak to seven games.

Hornets 111, 76ers 99

In Philadelphia, Greivis Vasquez scored 23 points and Eric Gordon added 19 to help New Orleans beat the Sixers.

Ryan Anderson had 14 points, Xavier Henry scored 11 and Anthony Davis 10 for the Hornets.

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