Kobe Bryant’s fast start afforded him the luxury of a late rest as the Los Angeles Lakers made light work of the free-falling Charlotte Bobcats with a 106-73 blowout home win on Tuesday.
The NBA’s leading scorer notched 18 points in the first quarter and recorded the game-high 24 by halftime, where the Lakers built a substantial lead against the league’s worst team, allowing Bryant to sit out the fourth quarter.
An entire quarter on the bench was a rare, but welcome treat for the 16th-year veteran, who entered the night second in the league in minutes per game. His absence also allowed the Lakers bench to shine and contribute 48 points on the night.
“Our bench was terrific, it was great to see,” Lakers coach Mike Brown told reporters. “We moved the ball and guys knocked down shots. It was a fun night to watch guys execute.”
Los Angeles set the early tone with a 10-0 run in the first quarter, where they grabbed a 12-point lead before going up by 24 at halftime.
The defeat was the latest reverse for the tumbling Bobcats, who lost their ninth straight game, the most since they dropped a franchise worst 13 in a row in 2006.
Gerald Henderson led all Charlotte scorers with 14 points on a night his team shot 34 percent from the field.
The Lakers, on the other hand, were able to break the 100-point mark for the second consecutive game after going 13 without doing so.
Andrew Bynum chipped in 20 points and 11 rebounds on the day he learned that he would be named to his first NBA All-Star Game when the voting is announced later this week.
“I’ve always wanted to be an All Star,” Bynum said. “It’s great to see it come to fruition.”
The Lakers picked up a final home win before they head out on a six-game road trip beginning on Friday. The team have had trouble away from home this season, where they are just 2-7.
Hawks 100, Raptors 77
In Toronto, Atlanta’s Joe Johnson needed just three quarters to match his season high with 30 points as the Hawks recorded their sixth straight win over the Toronto Raptors with a commanding victory.
Johnson matched his average of 30 points in each of his past four games against Toronto, while Tracy McGrady added 15 for the Hawks.
Jerryd Bayless scored 14 points for the Raptors, who lost their third in a row at home. Toronto have done better on the road this season than at home, where they have a 2-6 record.
Pacers 106, Nets 99
In Indianapolis, Paul George scored a career-high 24 points to lead Indiana past New Jersey.
Danny Granger had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Pacers, who went on a 12-0 run midway through the third quarter and eventually led by as much as 18 in the fourth.
Deron Williams scored 34 points for the Nets, who have lost nine straight against the Pacers. New Jersey turned the ball over three times and missed three shots in Indiana’s big run and shot just 40 percent overall in the third.
In other NBA action, it was:
‧ Celtics 93, Cavaliers 90
‧ Knicks 113, Pistons 86
‧ Grizzlies 100, Nuggets 97
‧ Warriors 93, Kings 90