Vujacic, Odom Lead Lakers Past Bulls

Wednesday, December 19th 2007, 7:33 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Kobe Bryant wasn't about to look ahead. Not with a groin injury and a showdown with LeBron James approaching.

How far can the Los Angeles Lakers go? All he knew is they were headed to Cleveland following Tuesday's 103-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

``My responsibility on this ballclub is making sure we stay focused and don't get too far ahead of ourselves,'' said Bryant, whose team visits the Cavaliers on Thursday.

Sasha Vujacic scored 19 points, and Lamar Odom added 17 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Lakers over Chicago.

Slowed by a groin injury, Bryant scored 18 points but was a nonfactor for long stretches against the team he targeted as a possible destination during the offseason.

Odom started an 11-point run with a layup and capped it with a dunk as the Lakers turned an 86-83 lead into a 14-point advantage with 3:24 left in the game. In between, they took advantage of three turnovers, and got an alley-oop dunk by Andrew Bynum and a layup and 3-pointer by Jordan Farmar.

``Balance, that's been the case the whole season,'' Odom said.

In the other NBA games Tuesday night, Sacramento defeated New Jersey 106-101 and Toronto edged the Los Angeles Clippers 80-77.

Bryant seemed fine when he converted an alley-oop in the opening minute, but he missed his next seven shots and was 7-for-19 overall. His skid ended with a jumper and a layup with just over 2 minutes remaining in the first half.

Bryant then scored the Lakers' first six points of the third quarter, starting with a thunderous reverse dunk in transition about 40 seconds into the period, but he needed help and got it.

Vujacic played a big role for the second straight game and rewarded the Lakers with another big fourth quarter. This time he scored nine in the final period, after delivering 14 in Sunday's win over the Clippers.

``(Coach Phil Jackson) showed me he has confidence in me,'' Vujacic said. ``That was the key thing for me. I'm having fun, playing basketball the way I used to play. I'm enjoying it.''

Luke Walton and Bynum finished with 12 points apiece, and the Lakers had six players score in double figures. Bynum also grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots.

Luol Deng led Chicago with 26 points after missing all six shots in the first quarter, and Kirk Hinrich finished with 17 points and eight assists. Andres Nocioni scored 14 points, but rolled his right ankle late in the game. He said it hurts ``just a little bit. It's fine.''

Ben Gordon was a nonfactor, though, with eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

``It's just frustrating,'' he said. ``You can use any word you want, but it's just frustrating.''

Bryant heard a few more cheers than boos during pregame introductions and one kid sitting about 10 rows off the court wore a Bulls jersey with masking tape and the number 24 scrawled on it.

There were oohs and aahs when Walton found a cutting Bryant for an alley-oop over Hinrich, but there was nothing like the ``Kobe! Kobe!'' chorus that roared through the United Center during several home games last month. Those chants were in response to trade talks that fell through and the Bulls' slow start.

With the groin injury Bryant suffered late in Friday's loss at Golden State limiting him, the two-time defending scoring champion spent most of the first half on the perimeter.

``If I'm not careful, it hurts all the time,'' Bryant said.

Kings 106, Nets 101

John Salmons scored a career-high 31 points and passed to teammate Francisco Garcia for a decisive 3-pointer to lead visiting Sacramento.

Brad Miller added 23 points and Ron Artest had 20 for the Kings, who got their second road win of the season _ and second in five days.

New Jersey, which has lost six of its past seven games and eight of its past 10 at home, was led by Richard Jefferson's 36 points.

Raptors 80, Clippers 77

Chris Bosh scored 12 of his 24 points in the third quarter to help visiting Toronto take the lead for good. Bosh also had nine rebounds to pass Antonio Davis for tops on the Raptors' career list.

Corey Maggette scored 22 for Los Angeles, and Chris Kaman recorded his 20th double-double of the season with 12 points and 16 rebounds.