Bryant was generous in sharing the ball with his teammates, helping five of them score in double figures of a 123-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
“It’s about being a big brother, giving them encouragement, but also getting on top of them at times,” said Bryant, who had eight points on 2-of-9 shooting after averaging 45 points in his previous four games.
Smush Parker led the Lakers with 23 points. Andrew Bynum added 19 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six blocked shots. Luke Walton had 18 points, and Brian Cook and Maurice Evans had 16 points each.
“I got a bunch of layups,” Parker said. “I was able to get to the front of the rim on a number of occasions. I give it to my teammates. They made the extra passes and I was the recipient.”
It was the Lakers’ eighth consecutive victory over Denver at Staples Center, where they are 13-1 against the Nuggets.
The Lakers had a season-high 39 assists, with Bryant getting 10 and Walton eight in coach Phil Jackson’s 899th career victory.
“Kobe facilitated a lot of things,” Jackson said. “I know there’s some people out there that wanted him to score. But he did the right thing in the type of game that was being played. I think he felt very comfortable with that, too.”
Bryant spent the fourth quarter on the bench with both knees heavily wrapped. During a timeout, he moved over to joke with injured Lamar Odom after laughing it up with Parker, Cook and Walton.
Seeing Iverson in a blue jersey startled Bryant.
“I told him he looked weird,” he said.
“They jumped right on us from the beginning. We just couldn’t recover from it,” Iverson said. “They beat us all throughout the game. We couldn’t stop them and we struggled on offense again.”
Just as Bryant didn’t expend any energy in the fourth, the crowd didn’t either, with sections of seats emptying out. The outcome was never in doubt after the Lakers led by 13 points at halftime.
Parker did most of his damage in the first half, when he had 20 points and the Lakers shot 52 percent.
Bryant had two points on free throws in the first half and dished out nine of his 10 assists.
“They’re the best passing team in the NBA and they proved it,” Denver coach George Karl said.
Los Angeles scored 15 consecutive points—with Parker, Bynum, Cook and Walton contributing—in the opening quarter to lead 21-9.
“When you let them get off to a confident start in their own building, it’s kind of stupid,” Karl said. “We never got a defensive dimension in the game.”
The Nuggets closed within seven to start the second quarter, but the Lakers stretched their lead to 14 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Maurice Evans and Jordan Farmar.
Los Angeles was up 104-87 heading into the fourth.
Bryant’s previous season low was 15 points against Seattle on Nov. 3. … Parker finished one point shy of his career high. … Jackson said Odom probably wouldn’t go on the Lakers’ road trip beginning Tuesday at Memphis. He’ll stay behind to continue therapy on his sprained right knee. … Denver fell to 3-5 since the NBA suspended Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith for fighting with the New York Knicks. … Former USC star and current Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart attended the game wearing Bryant’s No. 24 jersey.