Kobe, LeBron Win; Blazers Extend Streak

Wednesday, December 26th 2007, 7:52 am
By: News On 6

Soon after LeBron James and Kobe Bryant finished up, the surprising Portland Trail Blazers went to work on prolonging their winning streak.

No big-name stars, just another impressive performance.

Brandon Roy and Jarrett Jack each scored 17 points, and Portland won its 11th straight game with an 89-79 victory over the visiting Seattle SuperSonics on Tuesday night.

The Blazers (16-12) own the longest current winning streak in the NBA _ their best run since winning 12 in a row during the 2001-02 season. It's the first time a team has won 11 straight one season after losing 50 games. Portland went 32-50 in 2006-07.

``Everybody has just jelled. Everybody is talking on defense, communicating. No one is complaining,'' forward Channing Frye said. ``This is a really unique team to be on.''

Of course, James and Bryant were the marquee attractions for a Christmas tripleheader, and both delivered.

First, James scored 25 points and got help from Drew Gooden and Daniel Gibson in host Cleveland's 96-82 victory over Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

Later, Bryant put up 38 points and the Los Angeles Lakers got a huge game from 20-year-old center Andrew Bynum to beat the Phoenix Suns 122-115 at Staples Center for their ninth win in 11 games.

``The best thing about it is he's put in so much work over the summer and now,'' Bryant said. ``The biggest thing for him is he's seeing results. The sky's the limit for him.''

After Christmas dinner, fans hungering for more holiday hoops clicked over to cable TV and saw a workmanlike effort by the Blazers. They forced 13 turnovers, held Seattle to 41 percent shooting and improved to 13-3 at the Rose Garden this season.

Rookie sensation Kevin Durant scored 23 points for the Sonics on 8-of-20 shooting from the field. Wally Szczerbiak added 19.

Portland has played 13 times on Christmas, with a 12-game winning streak.

When the NBA schedule came out, this matchup was expected to feature the top two draft picks: center Greg Oden, who went No. 1 to the Blazers, and Durant, who went second to the Sonics. But Oden had microfracture surgery on his right knee and was lost for the season before it started.

Still, Portland's winning streak brought renewed interest in the game. Oden watched from the bench wearing a festive red jacket.

After a close first half, Portland pulled away in the third quarter with a 16-2 run capped by Roy's 3-pointer that put the Blazers ahead 66-50. Portland won despite shooting a season-low 38.7 percent (36-for-93) from the floor.

``I remember as a kid watching Michael Jordan play on Christmas,'' said Blazers center Joel Przybilla, who grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds. ``This is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don't know that I'll ever get that chance again in my career.''

Lakers 122, Suns 115

At Los Angeles, Bryant scored 26 points in the second half, while Bynum finished with a career-high 28 points to go with 12 rebounds and a season-high four assists. He shot 11-for-13 in outplaying Phoenix center Amare Stoudemire.

The Lakers (18-10) are a season-high eight games over .500 and within one game of the Pacific Division-leading Suns (19-9), who lost for the fifth time in eight games.

After matching his career high by playing 42 minutes, Bynum said he felt great.

``I feel like I could play another game right now,'' he said. ``I put in all the hard work just for this. It's paying off. This definitely was one of my better games. Made a pretty big impact, teammates looking for me, wide open a lot of the times and they found me today.

``So far, perfect Christmas.''

Derek Fisher added 19 points for the Lakers, Lamar Odom had 15 points and 14 rebounds and Trevor Ariza scored 14 points in his first start since being acquired from Orlando last month.

Steve Nash led the Suns with 24 points and 14 assists. Six of his teammates scored in double figures including Stoudemire, who had 19 points but only six rebounds. Shawn Marion had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Cavaliers 96, Heat 82

At Cleveland, Gooden scored 18 points, Gibson added 16 and the Cavaliers' defense arrived in time for the holiday.

James, who left Quicken Loans Arena in disgust following an embarrassing loss to Golden State on Sunday, added 12 assists and outshined Wade, who scored 22 points but didn't make his first field goal of the second half until there was only 4:01 remaining.

By then, the Cavs were already up by 12 points and they went on to win for just the fourth time in their past 14 games. Anderson Varejao scored 15 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas 13 for Cleveland.

``When we play defense we're a pretty good team,'' James said. ``When we don't, we don't look so well _ simple as that. Today was a good step.''