|Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (2nd R) puts up a shot as Metta World Peace (R) looks on during their NBA game against the Chicago Bulls in Los Angeles, March 10, 2013. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters.
MANILA, Philippines – It looks like Kobe Bryant's playoff guarantee may come true after all as the Los Angeles Lakers formally entered the playoff picture with a home victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday morning (Manila time).
Bryant and the Lakers sneaked up on the competition in the Western Conference, snatching the eighth spot after defeating the Bulls 90-81 at the Staples Center.
Dwight Howard let the way with 16 points and 21 rebounds, while Bryant had 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Four other Lakers scored in double-figures as they led by as much as 18 points in the game.
"We are playing a lot better, and we're playing the way we're supposed to," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told NBA.com. "Now, do we have a long way to go? Yes, we do."
Nate Robinson topscored for the Bulls with 19 points, while Joakim Noah (18 points, 17 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (12 points, 10 boards) both had double-doubles.
But the Bulls' offense was severely lacking, especially in the third quarter when they missed 11 straight shots while the Lakers scored 12 consecutive points to take control of the game.
"(Howard) just dominated the paint with his shot blocking, rebounding, physicality," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "That set the tone for the game and they dominated us on the boards from the start."
The Lakers have won eight of their last 10 games since the All-Star break to improve to 33-31. It is the first time all season that they have gone two games above .500.
They are half a game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the last playoff spot in the West, and just two games behind the Golden State Warriors for the sixth seed. – Report by ANC