CHICAGO (AP)—The Lakers may be Kobe Bryant’s team, but once again, they showed they’re not a one-man operation.
Slowed by a groin injury, Bryant scored 18 points but was a nonfactor for long stretches against the team he targeted as a possible destination during the offseason.
“Everybody’s contributing and playing well,” Bryant said. “It makes the game fun.”
Odom started an 11-point run with a layup and capped it with a dunk as the Lakers turned an 86-83 lead into a 14-point advantage with 3:24 left in the game. In between, they took advantage of three turnovers, and got an alley-oop dunk by Andrew Bynum and a layup and 3-pointer by Jordan Farmar.
“Balance, that’s been the case the whole season,” Odom said.
Bryant seemed fine when he converted an alley-oop in the game’s opening minute, but he missed his next seven shots and was 7-for-19 overall. His skid ended with a jumper and a layup with just over 2 minutes remaining in the first half.
Bryant then scored the Lakers’ first six points of the third quarter, starting with a thunderous reverse dunk in transition about 40 seconds into the period, but he needed help and got it.
Vujacic played a big role for the second straight game and rewarded the Lakers with another big fourth quarter. This time he scored nine in the final period, after delivering 14 in Sunday’s win over the Clippers.
“(Coach Phil Jackson) showed me he has confidence in me,” Vujacic said. “That was the key thing for me. I’m having fun, playing basketball the way I used to play. I’m enjoying it.”
Luke Walton and Bynum finished with 12 points apiece, and the Lakers had six players score in double figures. Bynum also grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots.
Luol Deng led Chicago with 26 points after missing all six shots in the first quarter, and Kirk Hinrich finished with 17 points and eight assists. Andres Nocioni scored 14 points, but rolled his right ankle late in the game. He said it hurts “just a little bit. It’s fine.”
Ben Gordon was a nonfactor, though, with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.
“It’s just frustrating,” he said. “You can use any word you want, but it’s just frustrating.”
Bryant heard a few more cheers than boos during pregame introductions and one kid sitting about 10 rows off the court wore a Bulls jersey with masking tape and the number 24 scrawled on it.
There were oohs and aahs when Walton found a cutting Bryant for an all-oop over Hinrich, but there was nothing like the “Kobe! Kobe!” chorus that roared through the United Center during several home games last month. Those chants were in response to trade talks that fell through and the Bulls’ slow start.
The Kobe rumors picked up so much steam that Chicago general manager John Paxson did his best to squash them on the eve of the home opener, saying the teams were never on the verge of a deal.
A day later, fans chanted “Kobe! Kobe!” in the closing seconds as the Bulls fell to Philadelphia. The chorus continued during a 2-10 start that included a 106-78 loss at Los Angeles—Chicago’s most lopsided loss ever to the Lakers.
Those chants haven’t been heard in weeks, with the Bulls winning six of nine entering Tuesday’s game.
The early cheers, oohs and aahs quickly turned to boos for Bryant after that alley oop.
That play aside, the groin he injured late in Friday’s loss at Golden State limited him, and the two-time defending scoring champion spent most of the first half on the perimeter.
“If I’m not careful, it hurts all the time,” Bryant said.
Bryant was stunned when he first heard about fans at the United Center chanting his name early this season. “A couple of my friends played against the Bulls when that took place,” Bryant said. “They called me after they played them and said they heard something that was just the craziest thing they had ever seen. I was shocked by it.” … The Bulls assigned rookie F Demetris Nichols to the Iowa Energy of the D-League. Nichols had been inactive for the four games since being claimed off waivers on Dec. 7. … Hinrich, who had made 27 straight free throws entering the game, missed his first foul shot and was 3-for-5.