LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant jugó el martes una defensa implacable que estimuló a sus compañeros de los Lakers de Los Angeles a hacer lo mismo, mientras que Dwight Howard dominó la pintura, al anotar canastas fáciles y bloquear tiros contra los desconcertados Bucks.

En los últimos dos partidos, los Lakers se han parecido a la potencia que todos preveían antes del comienzo de su turbulenta temporada. Y están a punto de descubrir si consiguieron corregirse a tiempo para competir contra el Heat de Miami.

Howard consiguió 31 puntos y 16 rebotes, Bryant también anotó 31 tantos y los Lakers vencieron el martes 104-88 a Milwaukee para su segunda victoria consecutiva después de una racha de seis derrotas.

Metta World Peace agregó 12 unidades por los Lakers, que se prepararon para recibir el jueves al campeón de la NBA, el Heat, con una actuación impresionante en la que Bryant y Howard tuvieron ambos partidos de al menos 30 puntos por segunda vez en su breve periodo juntos. Después de un esfuerzo similar contra Cleveland hace dos días, los Lakers son cautelosamente optimistas de que han resuelto algunos problemas.

"Ha sido genial", dijo Howard. "Cuando jugamos de la manera en que jugamos estos dos últimos partidos, no veo que nadie nos pueda superar. El problema es que tenemos que hacerlo de forma consistente y no tener fallas durante el juego. Estamos aprendiendo, pero cosas como esa llevan tiempo. Lo más importante, sólo tenemos que mantenernos unidos. No podemos dejar que nada en el exterior nos desgarre".

Howard volvió a jugar con una evidente chispa en su segundo partido luego de regresar tras una ausencia de tres juegos por una lesión en el hombro, al bloquear cuatro disparos y dominar a los Bucks en la ofensiva. Bryant y Steve Nash, quien repartió 11 asistencias, se concentraron en pasar el balón a Howard cerca del aro, y el seis veces elegido para el Juego de Estrellas lo capitalizó contra los delgados jugadores de Milwaukee.

Monta Ellis convirtió 17 unidades por Bucks, que perdieron por segunda vez en cinco encuentros dirigidos por el entrenador interino Jim Boylan. Brandon Jennings sólo pudo anotar 12 puntos, al embocar cuatro de sus 14 intentos, ante la defensiva de Bryant, el quinto mayor anotador en la historia de la NBA.

En tanto, los Clippers de Los Angeles rara vez pierden cuando Jamal Crawford encabeza a los anotadores del equipo.

Crawford insistió en que tiene muy poco que ver con el nuevo partido de ese tipo, en el que los Clippers jugaron sin Chris Paul.

Crawford anotó 30 puntos, su mayor cantidad de la temporada, incluyendo 12 de forma consecutiva al inicio del último cuarto, y los Clippers jugaron bien sin Paul para vencer por 117-109 a los Rockets de Houston.

Los Clippers ganaron su segundo partido seguido pese a la ausencia de su armador estrella, cuyo estado se reporta día a día tras sufrir una contusión en la rótula derecha.

Los Angeles aprovecharon un buen tercer cuarto para tomar la ventaja, y Crawford amplió la delantera a 20 unidades al superar a Houston por 12-7 en los minutos iniciales del último cuarto.

Los Clippers mejoraron su foja a 11-1 en los partidos de esta campaña en que Crawford, veterano de 12 años, lidera al equipo en puntos anotados. Crawford pareció sorprendido cuando se enteró de esa estadística.

"Honestamente, somos todos", dijo. "He tenido el trabajo sencillo de sólo anotar, pero Grant (Hill), Blake (Griffin), todos estos chicos me ponen en posición de anotar. ... Yo únicamente tengo que hacer los tiros, ellos hacen todo el trabajo difícil".

James Harden anotó 23 puntos por los Rockets, cuya racha de cuatro derrotas en fila es la peor de su temporada.

El argentino Carlos Delfino terminó con 16 puntos, tres asistencias y dos rebotes tras jugar 29:14 minutos por Houston.

Por su parte, los jugadores jóvenes de los Hornets de Nueva Orleáns están creciendo en el nuevo año.

El venezolano Greivis Vásquez anotó 23 puntos, Eric Gordon agregó 19 y los Hornets vencieron por 111-99 a los 76ers de Filadelfia. Después de perder 13 de 16 en diciembre, Nueva Orleáns ha ganado cinco de ocho en enero.

Ryan Anderson convirtió 14 unidades, Xavier Henry encestó 11 y Anthony Davis 10 por los Hornets, que aún ocupan la última posición en la Conferencia Oeste con marca de 12-26, formada con registros iguales de 6-13 tanto en casa como en gira.

"Estamos sanando ahora, y nos estamos convirtiendo en un equipo", dijo Vásquez, quien agregó nueve asistencias y dos rebotes en casi 36 minutos. "Tenemos chicos que pueden jugar bien. Y creo que nuestra mejor arma ahora es nuestra energía, porque estamos muy jóvenes".

Jrue Holiday encabezó la ofensiva de los Sixers con 29 puntos y 11 asistencias. Nick Young y Evan Turner sumaron 14 unidades cada uno, mientras que Thaddeus Young anotó 12.

En los otros resultados de la jornada, los Nuggets de Denver derrotaron 115-111 a los Trail Blazers de Portland, los Nets de Brooklyn 113-106 a los Raptors de Toronto y los Pacers de Indiana 103-76 a los Bobcats de Charlotte.

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    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 26: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during a break in the action against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 126-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 26: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers takes a free throw against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 126-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 26: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during a break in the action against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on December 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 126-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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