Bryant was injured in the final minutes of a loss to Golden State on Friday night and was a game-time decision for Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers, but the star guard had a game-high 32 points as the Lakers (14-9) won 113-92.
The two-time defending NBA scoring champion, though, had to make adjustments due to some pain.
“I can’t really open up my stride as much as I’m used to, so I’ve got to take shorter, choppy steps as opposed to opening my gait,” said Bryant, second in the league with 27.2 points per game. “So if I can just keep it in my mind to keep my stride short, I’ll be all right.”
Bryant was the only Lakers starter to reach double digits in scoring in a 106-78 win over Chicago on Nov. 18, finishing with 18 points. None of Los Angeles’ starting five played more than 35 minutes in the blowout.
Brown injured his ankle in that game, and Bynum had 14 points and 10 rebounds in place of the Lakers’ starting center.
Brown is still sidelined, but Bynum has given the Lakers a strong post presence. The improving 7-footer is averaging 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks while shooting 61.8 percent from the floor in 12 games since Brown was injured.
Bynum - the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft - had 14 points, nine rebounds and six blocks against the Clippers.
“I think he’s really just focused on improving himself and continuing to show that he’s the real deal,” Los Angeles point guard Derek Fisher said. “He’s taking seriously his role of being a protector for us on the defensive end with shot blocking and controlling the defensive boards.”
The Lakers have won five of six, averaging 111.8 points in that span. Los Angeles is opening a four-game stretch on the road, where it’s 5-5 on the season.
Chicago (8-13), meanwhile, has won six of nine after losing 10 of its first 12.
“Everybody knows what we’re capable of doing,” Bulls swingman Luol Deng said after a 101-96 win over New York on Friday night. “This season has been so up-and-down.”
Deng had 29 points, while Kirk Hinrich recorded the second triple-double of his career with 15 points, 14 assists and a season-high 12 rebounds.
Hinrich also went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, and his 27 consecutive made foul shots give him the longest active streak in the NBA. He’s shooting a league-best 95.6 percent (43-of-45) from the free-throw line on the season.
The fifth-year guard, however, has been terrible in his last three games versus the Lakers, averaging 6.0 points while shooting 29.2 percent from the floor. He had eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in the Nov. 18 matchup.