The Los Angeles Lakers proved Friday that they can win even when Kobe Bryant is having an off night. Bryant will try to bounce back and lead the Lakers to their first three-game winning streak of the season when they host the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
Bryant had 19 points in Friday’s 103-91 win over Detroit, just the third time in eight games he has been held under 20 points. He shot just 2-for-14 through the first three quarters, but Lamar Odom picked up the slack and finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds to lead six Lakers scoring in double digits.
“I can force the issue and go off for 40 or 50, but that’s not beneficial to the team. You’ve just got to stick to the flow of the game,” Bryant said. “I had some easy shots, they just didn’t fall for me.”
Bryant, who is averaging 27.4 points per game, did score 11 points in the final 5:38 to help the Lakers (5-3) pull away, but he also made up for his slow shooting night with strong defense.
“When you’re not shooting the ball well, you have to lead by example and make the rest of the guys understand that even though you don’t shoot the ball well, it doesn’t mean you relax on defense. If anything, you pick it up,” he said.
The Lakers were back home after a two-game swing through Texas that included a 107-92 loss in San Antonio on Tuesday and a 93-90 win in Houston the following night.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Odom said of the back-to-back wins over Houston and Detroit. “We know we could have played a little bit better in that San Antonio game. Hopefully we can just keep the momentum going.”
Odom is averaging 16.3 points in four games after missing the start of the season recovering from left shoulder surgery.
Bryant is averaging 25 points in 18 career games against the Bulls, but has averaged just 20 in his last three since scoring 43 in a 96-93 home loss against them on Nov. 20, 2005. The Lakers have won eight of 10 against the Bulls in Los Angeles.
Chicago (2-6) is playing at Staples Center for the second consecutive night, after beating the Los Angeles Clippers 92-73 on Saturday for its first road win of the season. The Bulls, who are playing the third game on a six-game trip, had been outscored by an average of more than eight points in their first three games away from home.
Andres Nocioni - starting in the second straight game - chipped in 21 points, was called for a flagrant foul and drew two flagrants himself.
“Clearly in both games he’s started, he gives us a presence out there with how assertive he plays. And his emotion and passion for the game rub off on other people,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said.