MILWAUKEE -- Carrying a four-game losing streak and trying to climb out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks were in for a fight against a Los Angeles Lakers team battling for a playoff berth.
All five Milwaukee starters scored in double digits, led by Larry Sanders' career-high 21 points, and the Bucks beat the Lakers 113-103 on Thursday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
The Bucks, mired in a shooting slump coming into the game, shot 48.4 percent from the field and hit 7 of 19 3-pointers. But for all the offense generated by Milwaukee's starting five, it was the Bucks' defensive effort that paved the way.
The Lakers shot 44.7 percent from the field and were just 5 of 20 on 3-point attempts. Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 30 points, but strong defensive showings by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Marquis Daniels limited Bryant to 17 shots from the floor.
"He's been playing really well for us," Milwaukee coach Jim Boylan said of Daniels. "He makes plays, makes shots, and you can see what he brings to the table on the defensive end. The difference in the game for us was tryig to keep Kobe as in check as you can keep a guy like him in check and Marquis made him work."
Daniels had perhaps his best game of the season against Bryant, finishing with 16 points and three steals.
"I like the challenge," Daniels said. "He's one of the better players, if not the best player, in the league. I just wanted to make it tough for him, come out and just challenge all his shots. I know I've got help behind me with Larry and the other guys, so I just wanted to take my turn guarding him and trying to make it tough for him."
Ersan Ilyasova and Monta Ellis each scored eight points in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 and 18, respectively. Brandon Jennings, who was benched during the third quarter of the Bucks' 100-92 loss Wednesday at Philadelphia, responded with 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field and seven assists.
Bryant was one of six Lakers to score in double figures. Dwight Howard had 15 points and 15 rebounds but struggled at the free-throw line, missing seven of 10 attempts. Pau Gasol added 12 points and Jodie Meeks 11 for the Lakers, who have lost four of their last five.
"The game was not what it needed to be tonight," Howard said. "It was way too easy for the guards to get into the paint and make players. When the guys are able to go wherever they want, it's easy for guys to get good looks and open shots. We needed to be much better on the defensive end tonight."
Milwaukee's late surge was aided by the absence of Steve Nash. Nash had hit 5 of 7 shots from the field, 16 points and six assists before heading to the locker room for treatment on his back with 5:13 left in the third quarter.
He never returned.
"Yesterday, last minute of the game his back and hamstring got fired up on him," Lakers coach Mark D'Antoni said. "He toughed it out at first, but I could tell he was hurting. I just didn't have the heart to put him back in. He wanted to go back in, but it wasn't fair to him. He was hurting."
NOTES: Team officials said Bryant would have a bone spur in his left foot examined Friday during the team's off day in Sacramento. ... Milwaukee gained a split in the season series for the second time in three seasons. The Bucks won the teams' only meeting last season. ... With 30 points Thursday, Bryant has 31,415 for his career and is four points behind Wilt Chamberlin for fourth on the NBA scoring list ... Milwaukee is 8-4 this season when Sanders scores 15 or more points.