Kobe's 42 points only beauty in Lakers win

BY foxsports • January 13, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Another 40-point night for Kobe Bryant. Another Lakers win.

Bryant scorched Cleveland for 42 points — his third straight game of 40 or more — to lead the Lakers to a 97-92 victory over the Cavaliers Friday night. It was the eighth consecutive home triumph for the Lakers, who are now 9-4 overall.

The Cavs got 21 points from rookie guard Kyrie Irving and a double-double from forward Anderson Varejao —11 points, 14 rebounds — as Cleveland dropped under .500 to 5-6.

Lakers coach Mike Brown got a win in his first game against the team that gave him a chance to coach in the NBA. He was fired after a playoff collapse in 2010 against the Boston Celtics, despite two 60-plus win seasons and an overall winning percentage of .643.

Even though Brown said he was pleased — again — with Bryant's effort and production, team-wise it wasn't pretty on the Staples Center floor. The Lakers built a lead of as many as 19 points, then watched the margin dwindle to three at 82-79 with 6:35 left in the game.

But Bryant put away the game, scoring seven of L.A.'s last 15 points. The Lakers bench was totally outclassed by the Cavaliers reserves, scoring just 4 points while Cleveland's backups poured in 36.

"Well, we won another ugly one out there tonight," said Brown, who exchanged hugs with many of his former players after the game.

"In the third quarter, you have to give Cleveland credit. They came out and turned up the intensity, and they did a nice job of getting back in the game.

"Our guys ... did a good job of withstanding their run. It was ugly, but we just found a way to make stops, and guys made enough baskets down the stretch to get us the win."

Defense once again was the key for L.A., as the Lakers held Cleveland to a miserable 37.6 shooting percentage from the field. In the Lakers' 13 games so far this season, they've given up 100 or more points on just two occasions, road losses to Sacramento (100-91) and Portland (107-96). And the defense needs to show up in full force at Staples on Saturday night when they take on the 5-3 Clippers in the first regular-season "Battle of Los Angeles."

The L.A. teams met twice in the preseason, the Clippers winning both times, scoring 114 and 108 points. This time, however, it's for real, with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and company trying to convince everyone that Los Angeles isn't just a one-team city anymore.

The Clips are coming off an impressive come-from-behind win over the Miami Heat Wednesday night at home, and following it up with a win over the Lakers might go a long way in converting some of the doubters. It's a game both teams have been looking forward to, and Bryant knows the Lakers' past success against the Clippers means nothing in 2012.

"They present a lot of challenges now," said Bryant.

"Chris is a handful for us alone, and Blake is explosive and he's got improved range on his shot. DeAndre (Jordan), Caron (Butler), all those guys are gonna be tough. We're looking forward to the matchup. It should be fun."

Of course, for the Lakers there is the added motivation of seeing Paul in a red, white and blue uniform rather than purple and gold.

Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were part of a three-team deal with Houston and league-owned New Orleans that sent Paul to the Lakers — before the deal was vetoed by David Stern, who as commissioner technically oversees the Hornets. The Clippers were able to work out an acceptable trade, and Paul now performs his wizardry for the Clippers.

The Lakers not only lost the All -tar point guard, but they felt they had to trade Odom after he refused to report to camp, saying he didn't want to play for a team that didn't want him. So Lamar was jettisoned to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for an 8.9 million dollar trade exception and a draft choice, leaving the Lakers shorthanded to this day. And making Stern every Laker fans' number one enemy—not that fans have any real regard for pro sports commissioners under the best of circumstances.

Despite all the consternation, the Lakers are second in the Western Conference behind 10-2 Oklahoma City. And they've done it with a patchwork lineup due to injuries, child birth (Jason Kapono and his wife Ashley welcomed twin girls with Kapono missing two games) and sometimes poor play.

The last Laker to see action in a game this year was their first pick, L.A. native and former Michigan guard Darius Morris, who made his NBA debut Wednesday in Utah. Against the Cavs he picked up 4 assists and 3 points in 18 minutes, and is all of a sudden a part of the bench rotation.

Guard Steve Blake will be out 3-4 weeks with fractured rib cartilage, and Morris will continue to get more minutes. Saturday he goes through the gauntlet as he'll go up against Paul, Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams — the Clippers' trio of All Star point guards.

"It's going to be a big challenge," Morris said after the game. "They're very established guys, smart guys with the basketball, and they can all lead their team. They can dribble, shoot the shots, so (we) really have to be on our defensive game. It's helps a little that I played (against) them in the preseason, but the regular season is a different beast."


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