Kobe Bryant, so often the man the Los Angeles look to, got plenty of help from his teammates as they beat the Phoenix Suns 102-96. All five Lakers starters scored at least 15 - led by Bryant's 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists - along with seven turnovers.
Andrew Bynum added 18 points for the Lakers, while Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher scored 15 apiece. "Kobe kind of messed up his hand a little bit again. He was reluctant to shoot," said the Lakers' coach, Phil Jackson. "He got the ball to guys wide open, made the defence collapse. They shared the ball pretty well." The Suns rallied from 15 down in the second half and led briefly early in the fourth quarter before the Lakers pulled ahead for good.
"We played with a lot of poise," Bryant said. "They got back into it but we never really got rattled. We just had to execute and take what the defence gives us." Alvin Gentry, the Suns coach, had to be restrained by his assistants after being ejected by the referee, Mike Callahan, when the Lakers' Gasol was not penalised for a flagrant foul on Lou Amundson's drive to the basket with 5:06 to play.
Gentry refused to talk about the ejection, his second since he took over as coach after last season's All-Star break. Amundson played down the incident. "It was a hard foul, but I don't he's a dirty player or anything - I think he was just trying to make a play on the ball," said Amundson. "It was really physical all night, so I wasn't surprised." Los Angeles had lost three of four overall and four in a row on the road. "At some point we have to step it up," said Gasol said.
"I think it was a perfect opportunity for us tonight to step it up and play a good game and have a nice win and get ourselves going, because we have been kind of struggling for the most part, especially on the road." Amare Stoudemire had 29 points and 16 rebounds for the Suns, who were playing for the first time in six days. Elsewhere, LeBron James, coming off a six-day lay-off, was dominant on his return after missing two games with an ankle injury as he scored 23 points in the Cleveland Cavaliers' 100-95 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
"I felt a little off rhythm," said James, who also had 10 assists and six rebounds "My wind was a little off, but it felt great to get back on the court with the guys." "I thought defensively in the second half, LeBron had some big plays for us on the weak side," said Mike Brown, the Cleveland coach. "He busted it a couple of times going from the strong side to the weak side. He definitely made some spectacular plays on the weak side.
"What a beautiful game. It was pretty from all aspects." Mo Williams added 21 points, Delonte West contributed 17 and Anderson Varejao had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Cavaliers (51-15), who have NBA's best record. firstname.lastname@example.org