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Fri, Apr 6, 2012 - 10:30 PM ET
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A strong shooting effort by Kobe Bryant helped the Los Angeles Lakers take a big step towards another Pacific Division title.

Shooting at a high percentage could be tough for him against the Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons.

Parsons gave Bryant problems the last time these teams met, and will try to do the same in Friday night's rematch in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles (35-20) increased its division lead over the Clippers by beating its Staples Center co-tenants, 113-108 on Wednesday. Bryant made 13 of 19 shots to finish with 31 points and added six assists, bolstering his MVP credentials.

The Lakers, who captured the season series and playoff tiebreaker over the Clippers, shot 51.8 percent in their fourth straight win overall.

"Kobe didn't want to lose," center Andrew Bynum said.

Now, the question is whether the 6-foot-6 Bryant can be as efficient when he goes up against the 6-9 Parsons. Bryant scored 29 points, but made just 10 of 27 shots and struggled down the stretch in a 107-104 loss at Houston (29-25) on March 20.

"I played good D," Parsons said after that victory. "I was right there in his face."

Bryant had some curious compliments for the rookie out of Florida afterward.

"You know what man, I might have to stop taking shots, when the shot clock is winding down, that's what I am going to start doing because you guys (the media) look at that and think its great defense, I am going to stop shooting the ball when the shot clock goes down, but I love him (Parsons) though," Bryant said. "I do, I think he is a terrific young player.

"He can shoot from the outside, handle the ball, and can rise to the challenge defensively. I think he has a really bright future and I don't say a lot about a lot of people."

Bryant has totaled 66 points in the season series and Bynum has contributed 37 points and 29 rebounds as these teams have split two games. Luis Scola had led the Rockets with 43 points versus the Lakers.

Bynum returned Wednesday after missing one game with an ankle injury and finished with 36 points - one off his season high - and eight rebounds despite not feeling 100 percent.

"It hurts a little bit, especially on spin moves," Bynum said. "I found more little things out there that hurt so I tried to stay away from them. As the game progresses, the pain subsides."

Houston is fighting for a playoff spot, entering play Friday tied for seventh in the Western Conference with Denver. Starting guard Kyle Lowry has missed the last 14 games with a bacterial infection, although he took part in some drills during Thursday's workout.

There may be no need for Lowry to rush back, given the way Goran Dragic has filled the void. Dragic is averaging 22.7 points on 62.5 percent shooting and 6.0 assists over his last three contests.

One of Dragic's best efforts during his 14-game run as a starter was a 16-point, 13-assist performance in the March 20 victory over the Lakers.

Houston has not played since Dragic had a team-high 21 points in Monday's 99-93 win at Chicago.

Tagged: Rockets, Lakers, Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Goran Dragic

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