Kobe gets 40 in Lakers' 106-93 win over Pistons
By Greg Beacham
Los Angeles -- When Lamar Odom pondered why the Los Angeles Lakers have been able to avoid losing three straight games for nearly two years, he instinctively glanced across the room to Kobe Bryant's locker.
"That's a big reason," Odom said with a grateful nod.
Bryant scored 40 points for the 100th time in his career, and the Lakers stopped a mini-skid with a 106-93 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night.
Andrew Bynum had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who took a 28-point lead before surviving Detroit's impressive fourth-quarter rally. Although Bryant had just five points in the final period, he did enough damage early to push the Lakers to another win while moving himself further into rarefied company with the greatest scorers in NBA history.
Bryant didn't appear to be slowed by his strained groin while scoring 27 points in the middle two quarters before reaching 40 on a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left. With four 40-point games already this season after getting just four all last year, Kobe trails only Wilt Chamberlain (271) and Michael Jordan (173) in 40-point games in NBA history.
"It's a true honor," Bryant said. "A lot of work went into it, and when I look back on that, I (can't believe) I had 100 of those games. It's just a good feeling."
Bryant led the Lakers in scoring for the 10th time in 11 games while frequently taking Ben Gordon and other Detroit defenders into the low post. Bryant also played with a noticeable edge, jawing with several Pistons before and after scoring on them.
Bryant scored 13 points in the second quarter, making six of his seven shots while the Lakers went ahead 57-42 at halftime. He was 6 for 8 in the third, scoring 14 more points while Los Angeles gradually increased its lead to 24 -- and he wasn't thrilled by the extra work necessary after Detroit made things interesting late.
"We just have to talk to that second unit about maintaining that defensive intensity," Bryant said. "The focus and energy should be on the defensive end."
Coach Phil Jackson felt Los Angeles played only two strong quarters following its back-to-back losses to Denver and Houston, but he couldn't complain much. The Lakers still haven't lost three straight games since before Pau Gasol joined the club on Feb. 1, 2008, although Gasol again was out of the lineup with a hamstring injury.
"Some of that is just talent, and some of it is resiliency," Jackson said. "They were embarrassed with the losses, and they want to feel good about themselves, so they worked hard to change that."
Will Bynum scored 10 of his 24 points in the final period for the Pistons, who opened a four-game West Coast trip with their second straight loss. Largely using reserves, Detroit chopped the Lakers' lead to 98-91 with 1:55 to play before former Michigan State guard Shannon Brown made three free throws and a soaring dunk to seal it.
"They were the aggressor, and we were reacting to everything they were doing," said Ben Wallace, who had five rebounds. "We were a step behind them for the entire game. The second group came in and played the way that we should have been playing all along. They made the game close, so we have to take a cue from our second unit and play hard from the start."
Detroit is even more seriously injury-depleted than the Lakers, with Richard Hamilton (sprained right ankle) and Tayshaun Prince (back injury) still out of the lineup.
Gordon scored 18 points and Jason Maxiell had 13 for the Pistons, who committed 17 turnovers while Los Angeles compiled 12 more rebounds and 10 more assists than Detroit.
"I'm not sure how many times we turned the ball over, but we just didn't match their energy," Gordon said. "They played harder than us, they were more aggressive to the loose balls, and they did a lot of the small things that got them over the top. I think we just need to do a better job of competing throughout the game instead of in spurts."
Notes: Gasol might try to play for the first time this season Thursday night against Chicago. ... Former Lakers big man Kwame Brown was roundly booed when he entered the game for Detroit. The former No. 1 overall pick had nine points in 27 minutes. ... The Lakers honored Los Angeles Sparks star Lisa Leslie at halftime. Leslie retired earlier this year. ... Oliver Platt, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and baseball great Dave Winfield were among the courtside celebrities.