NBA Scores And More: Lakers Tip Cold-Shooting Blazers; Knicks Lose To Bucks

The Lakers held Portland's guards to some truly awful shooting, and pulled out a victory. In other action, the Knicks fell again as defense abandoned New York, and the tandem of Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin blitzed the Jazz.

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Blazers Vs. Lakers: Kobe Bryant Leads L.A. To Defensive Victory Over Portland

Kobe Bryant scored a team-high 22 points as the Los Angeles Lakers overcame the Portland Trail Blazers 84-80 in a defensive struggle at Staples Center Sunday night. Bryant shot 9-20, but a solid 5-8 in the fourth quarter as he scored 10 in the final period. That helped turn the tide, as the Lakers erased a five-point Blazers lead late to pull away.

Bryant's opponents in Blazers' black were not so efficient, especially in the fourth. Portland scored just 14 points in the final quarter, and the Blazers' guards were almost universally bad. Wesley Matthews shot 0-4. Andre Miller shot 3-14. Rudy Fernandez shot 3-10. Brandon Roy shot 3-12. Patty Mills, bless him, shot 0-0. That comes out to 9-40 shooting from Portland's guards, and that's not getting it done, even if Nicolas Batum shreds Ron Artest for 25 points on 10-16 shooting.

Portland nearly won because of Batum, awful three-point shooting (3-17) for the Lakers and a killer effort on the offensive glass. Sure, Portland had plenty of opportunities for second-chance points given the rate at which the team's jumpers clanked. But the Blazers racked up 17 offensive boards, some 39 percent of their opportunities, a very strong effort.

But Kobe outlasted the effort, and the Lakers walked away with a fourth straight win since the bad loss to the Miami Heat. L.A. has won 12 of 13 since the All-Star break.

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Knicks Vs. Bucks: Carlos Delfino Breaks New York's Back, Opens Floodgates

If the New York Knicks had thought they'd heard enough criticism based on a relative lack of improvement already, get a load of what happens after the team lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 105-100. The Bucks are a simply brilliant defensive team, and they played up to it, limiting New York to only average output, with Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups each hitting the 20-point mark, but with the Knicks shooting just .438 (effective field goal percentage).

And yes, the Knicks are bad on defense. Carlos Delfino (a small forward, if it matters) ripped off 30 points on 8-13 shooting to lead the Bucks; John Salmons added 22 and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute added 19. Most importantly, the Bucks attacked the Knicks, drawing 37 free throw attempts. The Knicks (per usual) settled for more jumpers, and had just 22 free throw attempts.

Mike D'Antoni had Shelden Williams, the former Duke defensive stopper who has failed to make an impact at the NBA level for more than a few weeks at a time, start next to Stoudemire. It didn't work. Williams lasted six minutes. There are defensive players in the frontcourt -- Williams, Ronny Turiaf in particular. But D'Antoni has been unable to use them to give his team any sort of defensive power in the frontcourt. Will things come to a head between D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh over this?

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Jazz Vs. Rockets: Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin Launch Houston Past Utah Despite Paul Millsap's Big Night

Kyle Lowry registered his first career triple-double as the Houston Rockets edged the Utah Jazz 110-108 in southeastern Texas on Sunday. Kevin Martin scored 34 points for the Rockets, shooting 18-18 from the line, to go with Lowry's 28 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds. Paul Millsap racked up 35 points and 10 rebounds in thoroughly dominating a returning-from-injury Luis Scola; Al Jefferson also had 17 points and 19 rebounds (nine offensive) for Utah.

But Houston's guards kept control. Since 1985-86, a player has only hit 100 percent of 18 or more free throws in a game 14 times; the last player to do so was Kevin Durant at the start of the 2009-10 season. Martin has made more free throws than any other player in the NBA this season, despite averaging fewer than 32 minutes per game for Rick Adelman's club.

The Jazz are now 5-10 since Jerry Sloan's abrupt retirement.

In other action:

Wizards 98, Nets 92: The Nets were without Deron Williams, whose injured wrist continues to pose problems. Jordan Farmar couldn't stop John Wall from breaking out 26 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals. In fact, I think Farmar's presence actually helped Wall accomplish all that.

Hawks 104, Pistons 96: Al Horford had one of those games, with 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. Greg Monroe was excellent, though; 17 points, 10 rebounds, three steals.

Kings 127, Wolves 95: Kevin Love strained his groin and played just 14 minutes. Michael Beasley is still bothered by a hip injury caused by Andrew Bynum and played just 15 minutes. Still, without Tyreke Evans and with DeMarcus Cousins scoring just three points before being ejected in the third, the Kings shouldn't be beating anyone by 32.

Suns 108, Clippers 99: Steve Nash looked just fine, racking up 23 points and 13 assists for the Suns. Blake Griffin fouled out with 17 points and two rebounds.

Raptors 95, Thunder 93: Amir Johnson won the game on a baby hook. That's pretty much all there is to say. (Also: Oklahoma City's defense: still not perfect!)

Mavericks 101, Warriors 73: Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood sat for different reasons, but Ian Mahinmi stepped up to shred Golden State off the bench, totaling nine points and 13 rebounds in 19 minutes. Dallas needed just 31 minutes from Dirk Nowitzki, and no more for any other Mav.

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