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Howard, Bryant carry Lakers over Bucks
Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Dwight Howard finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers downed the Milwaukee Bucks, 104-88, at Staples Center.
"This could be an average night for him when he gets fitter and more comfortable with the system," Lakers guard Steve Nash said about Howard, who returned to action on Sunday after missing three games with a shoulder injury.
Kobe Bryant also poured in 31 points, while Metta World Peace finished with 12 and Antawn Jamison contributed 10 with eight rebounds.
Nash added eight points and 11 assists for the Lakers, who have won two straight following a six-game slide.
Monta Ellis scored 17 points to pace Milwaukee, which lost two of its last three games.
Beno Udrih followed with 14 points and seven assists, Brandon Jennings had 12 points and Mike Dunleavy dropped in 10 in defeat.
"We missed a lot of shots, but mainly because of their pressure," Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan said. "They played a really good game, a really good defensive game."
Los Angeles raced out to the early lead as Howard scored six points and World Peace connected on a pair of 3-pointers in a game-opening 14-4 run.
The Lakers' advantage reached as high as 23-11 on a pair of Bryant free throws with 5:38 left in the frame before the Bucks closed out the first quarter with a 16-6 run to get back within 29-27 entering the second.
It remained a one-possession game from there as the teams traded baskets until Jamison sank consecutive triples to hand Los Angeles a 37-33 edge.
Milwaukee responded with an 11-4 push to take a 44-41 lead before the Lakers scored eight of the next 10 points to go back on top for good, 49-46.
Los Angeles carried a 57-50 cushion into the third quarter, where the Bucks battled back from an 11-point deficit to get within 69-67 with five minutes to play, but they could not even the score and were held at arm's length from there en route to a 79-73 deficit at the end of the third.
The Lakers then pulled away in the fourth quarter with a 24-7 run over the opening seven-plus minutes of the stanza, giving LA a comfortable 100-80 lead.
The Bucks never got closer than 16 points for the remainder of the contest.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol missed his fifth straight game with a concussion ... The Bucks are 3-17 in the their last 20 trips to Los Angeles ... Bryant has scored 20 or more points in 22 straight games ... Milwaukee fell to 3-2 under Boylan.
01/16 02:51:19 ET
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