(Sports Network) - Whether it's been through the media or on the court, Kobe
Bryant has put the Los Angeles Lakers on his back.
The five-time NBA champion and 15-time All-Star looks to make it easier on
himself and the Lakers when they host the Chicago Bulls Sunday afternoon.
Bryant scored 40-plus points for a second straight game in a 118-116 overtime
victory versus the Toronto Raptors Friday night, finishing with 41 points and
Bryant, who had 42 points and 12 assists to help L.A. erase a 25-point hole at
New Orleans on Wednesday, buried a game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds left
in regulation versus the Raptors and his dunk late in overtime lifted the
Lakers to their seventh win in nine tries.
"This is a huge win for us. We keep digging ourselves in these holes and we
have to figure out a way to come back so that we don't have to work so hard to
get a win," said Bryant, who is averaging 35.9 ppg in his last eight. "But, it
feels good to be back within striking distance."
Bryant has 119 40-point games in his career and seven in 2012-13.
Los Angeles is a game over the .500 mark at 32-31 and tied with Utah for the
eighth and final postseason berth in the Western Conference. The Lakers, who
are also 2 1/2 games off the sixth spot, have never been two games above .500
Dwight Howard totaled 24 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in the win over
the Raptors, while Steve Nash posted 22 points.
"Playing in games like this is great for our team," Howard said. "We're trying
to get better. We could have stopped playing, but we just stuck together. Kobe
hit some tough shots and we got some good stops at the end."
The Lakers have ripped off five straight wins at home and are 21-11 as the
host this season. Following their game versus Chicago, the Lakers will head
east for three games against Orlando, Atlanta and Indiana.
Some good news came out of the Windy City recently as former MVP Derrick Rose
was medically cleared to return to action. However, Rose said he is not
mentally ready for play just yet.
"He's been cleared to do everything there is," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
"Before he makes the final step, everyone has to get together and sign off.
That hasn't happened yet. The most important part of this is that we have to
trust Derrick, and I trust him."
Chicago has managed without Rose and sits fifth in the East. It ended a two-
game slide the last time out with an 89-88 triumph Friday versus the Utah
Jazz. Marco Belinelli hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds remaining in
the game and finished with 22 points. Carlos Boozer also had 22 points in
addition to 10 rebounds for the Bulls, winners in three of five games.
Belinelli was asked about his big shot from downtown.
"Joakim (Noah) got a great rebound and found a way to pass me the ball in the
corner," Belinelli said. "It was a big shot for me."
Nate Robinson was busy in the win over the Jazz, adding 14 points, seven
assists and six boards.
The Bulls will open a three-game western trip Sunday and are also scheduled to
visit Sacramento and Golden State. Chicago is 17-13 away from the United
Center and looks to stop a three-game road slide against the Lakers.
Chicago topped Los Angeles at home, 95-83 on Jan, 21 this season. Kirk Hinrich
led six Bulls players in double figures with 22 points, while Bryant was held
to 16 points to end a string of 24 straight games of 20-plus points. The Bulls
have won three in a row against the Lakers, but have dropped 12 of the
previous 15 meetings as the visitor in this series.
The Sports Network