CHICAGO — Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 42 points, and the Los Angeles Lakers won for the 12th time in 13 games, beating the fading Chicago Bulls 96-87 on Tuesday.
Down one through three quarters, the Lakers pulled away early in the fourth and sent Chicago to its 11th loss in 13 games.
Bryant was simply phenomenal even though he was wearing a splint on his broken right index finger, tearing through the Bulls after struggling to score 16 in a loss to Utah on Saturday. He needed IV fluids in that game because of a stomach ailment but had no trouble this time.
He was particularly good in the early going, scoring 20 points in the first quarter and 25 in the half against single coverage as Los Angeles built a 54-48 lead, and some fans even chanted "MVP! MVP!" after his dunk in the closing seconds.
Andrew Bynum added 11 points, Pau Gasol grabbed 16 rebounds and Shannon Brown scored seven of his nine in the fourth as Los Angeles came away with the win.
Luol Deng scored 21 for Chicago and so did Derrick Rose even though he strained a left rib in the first quarter. Brad Miller scored 15 and Joakim Noah added 11 points and 20 rebounds for his 11th double-double, but the Bulls came up short against the Western Conference leaders.
They can take some comfort in this, though: They didn't get embarrassed.
That's a big improvement for a team that lost to New Jersey and got blown out by Toronto, Atlanta and Boston during an ugly seven-day stretch, and the Bulls were even leading 73-72 going into the fourth.
Brown, who's from the Chicago area, buried a corner 3 and dunked on a three-on-one to give the Lakers a 77-73 lead a minute into the fourth quarter, and Los Angeles stayed in control the rest of the way.
It was 90-84 after Miller buried a jumper with 2:14 left, but Bryant hit one of his own in the final minute. Gasol converted two free throws, and Bryant then punctuated the win with that dunk, drawing a roar from the crowd.
NOTES: Lakers F Ron Artest said he does not anticipate any trouble with Ben Wallace when Los Angeles visits Detroit on Sunday, although he wouldn't mind fighting him on pay-per-view. He even called Wallace "a good guy" who has a "great family," and said if they did go at it, the bout would have to be sanctioned. "It's something that's kinda cool and probably will never happen," Artest said. In a recent interview with the Sporting News, Artest said he's still ready to fight Wallace, the player who shoved him on the play that preceded the brawl with Pistons fans when Artest was with Indiana.