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Lakers 90, Bulls 81

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- After two huge comebacks in a week, the Los Angeles Lakers lived easy on Sunday in a 90-81 win over the visiting Chicago Bulls.

As they push toward a playoff berth that at one point seemed a faint possibility -- moving into the Western Conference No. 8 seed, a half-game better than idle Utah -- the Lakers could use the relaxation.

Four days after a 25-point comeback in a win at New Orleans and two days after a 15-point comeback against the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles glided to the win behind a balanced offensive effort and the defense of Dwight Howard.

Six Lakers scored in double-figures, led by Kobe Bryant's 19, and Howard scored 16 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked four shots.

Bryant, who became the first Laker since Jerry West to register 40 points and 10 assists in back-to-back games during the two comeback wins, again lifted the Lakers in various ways. Bryant added nine assists and six rebounds for streaking Los Angeles, which has won three straight and moved to two games above .500 for the first time this season.

Steve Nash had 16 points and Metta World Peace added 16 despite shooting 0-for-6 from 3-point range. The Lakers as a team shot just 5-for-26 from behind the arc, but held Chicago to just 4-for-16.

The Bulls did little better inside, shooting 37 percent from the field.

Nate Robinson led Chicago with 19 points, eight assists and four steals and Joakim Noah had 18 points and 17 rebounds, including 10 offensive. Carlos Boozer had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Luol Deng added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls, who had beaten the Lakers three straight times.

NOTES: Kirk Hinrich (foot) missed the game for the Bulls, and Derrick Rose (torn ACL) remains out. ... Chicago won the first matchup between the two teams, 95-83, on Jan. 21 at the United Center. Hinrich led all scorers with 22 for the Bulls and Nash led Los Angeles with 18 points. ... The Bulls won the lone matchup between the two teams last season on Christmas Day. ... Sunday's game was truly a matchup of different styles and philosophies; the Lakers rank sixth in the NBA in scoring and 26th in scoring defense while the Bulls rank 28th in scoring but third in scoring defense. ... Bryant's 41-point performance against the Toronto Raptors on March 8 was the 119th 40-point performance of his career. ... While the Bulls won three straight against the Lakers entering the matchup -- they have not won four straight since 1994-1996 -- Chicago is just 4-6 against Los Angeles in its last 10 games.

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