NEW YORK // Kobe Bryant scored 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers pulled off an easy 100-87 road win over the New Orleans Hornets. Pau Gasol added 20 points for the Lakers (23-5), who won their second game in as many nights ahead of their NBA finals rematch with the Boston Celtics in Los Angeles tonight. The Lakers dominated the game against New Orleans, leading by 19 points at the half and by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter.
"Any time you play a team like New Orleans, which is a team that a lot of people expect to be there in the end, you definitely want to send a message," Bryant said. The Lakers had lost two straight games to start their four-game road swing, but finished it up with a win in Memphis on Monday before Tuesday's win. Bryant said teams have to take one game at a time during a long season. "You'll have stretches where you play extremely well, stretches where you play well, stretches where you play badly," he said.
"It's a roller-coaster ride. You've just got to stick with it." Boston (27-2) go into tonight's game on a franchise-record 19-game winning streak after routing Philadelphia 110-91. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo each scored 18 points as the Celtics surpassed the club mark set by the 1981-82 team, LeBron James finished with 27 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers held off the Houston Rockets 99-90 for a fourth straight victory and to remain undefeated at home this season.
Rodney Stuckey scored a career-high 40 points as the Detroit Pistons beat the Chicago Bulls 104-98, despite Allen Iverson leaving the game midway through the third quarter with a strained left groin after just five points and eight assists. Dirk Nowitzki led five players in double figures with 21 points while Jason Terry added 17 off the bench as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Memphis Grizzlies 100-82.
Tony Parker had 36 points and eight assists as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 99-93. Brandon Roy scored 12 of his 19 points in the final quarter as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Denver Nuggets 101-92. Dwyane Wade collected 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to lead the Miami Heat to a 96-88 triumph over the Golden State Warriors.
Emeka Okafor scored 29 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the Charlotte Bobcats to an 80-72 win over the Washington Wizards. Devin Harris sank a jumper from just inside the three-point line as time expired to lift the New Jersey Nets to a 108-107 triumph over the Indiana Pacers. Joe Johnson recorded his second career triple-double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists as Atlanta Hawks defeated Oklahoma City Thunder 99-88
The Milwaukee Bucks forced 23 turnovers en route to their fifth win in six chances, a 94-86 triumph over Utah to end an eight-game losing streak to the Jazz. * Reuters