The Los Angeles Lakers aren't at full strength, but they're mounting a comeback in the Western Conference for all the NBA to see.
Los Angeles got ahead early and pulled away late on Tuesday night, knocking off the visiting Milwaukee Bucks by a score of 104-88. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant both had 31 points for the Lakers, and did so without going above 20 shots. Metta World Peace added 12 and Steve Nash had eight points and 11 assists for L.A.
After leading only by seven at halftime and giving up 50 points to Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and the Bucks, the Lakers defense stiffened up. The Bucks scored just 38 points in the second half and finished with a shooting percentage of just 35.8.
Ellis led the way for the Bucks with 17 points, but was also an uncharacteristic 3-of-9 from the free-throw line. Beno Udrih was next on the team with 14, while Larry Sanders added 11 rebounds and three blocks to his impressive stat totals from recent weeks.
The game is a step in the right direction on both offense and defense for L.A., especially in the wake of the team's recent struggles and with a showdown against the Miami Heat the next game on the docket. L.A. jumps to 17-21 with the win, while Milwaukee drops to 19-18.
Player of the Game: C Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers
Howard looked like the guy worth trading Andrew Bynum for on Tuesday, pouring in 31 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and swatting four shots en route to one of his best games of the season.
D12 hasn't looked comfortable with his role or his body at certain points this season, but you wouldn't know that by just flipping the game on against the Bucks. He was active on both ends, looked refreshed and Nash was able to get him the ball in open spots for good looks.
He also finished shooting 14-of-18, a major improvement from some of the Lakers' recent losses. Free throws are always a big emphasis with Howard, but he was only 3-of-8 for the night—he still has areas to improve.
Up Next for the Bucks
The Bucks will continue their West Coast swing on Thursday when they travel to Phoenix to take on Goran Dragic and the Suns. It should be a fun one to watch, as both teams look to score quickly and have guards that like to attack off the dribble.
Milwaukee beat the Suns last Tuesday night, but it's a different animal on the road, and the Bucks will have to bring their A-game after a late showdown with the Lakers.
Up Next for the Lakers
It's here, NBA fans. The Lakers will host the defending champion Miami Heat on Thursday, as they look to continue this mini-roll and make a statement against one of the NBA's elite team.
Kobe vs. LeBron James has always been a matchup we look forward to, and this year is no different, with both in the top-five in scoring and eager to prove on national TV that each is ready for the challenge of another NBA championship.