Kobe, Lakers handle 76ers who lose Brand to hammy strain

PHILADELPHIA -- Kobe Bryant heard some different sounds from the hometown crowd during his usual mix of rally-killing 3-pointers and straight-to-YouTube baskets.

Long reviled in Philadelphia, Bryant heard some cheers, even some "MVP!" chants this time around.

Winning a game and winning over fans made it a good night for Bryant.

Bryant tormented his hometown team again, scoring 32 points to help the Los Angeles Lakers rebound from a last-second loss with a 114-102 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

"It's fun when you can bring fans into the game," Bryant said. "There were a lot of Lower Merion alumni here. We're deep."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said before the game that the thrill of playing in his home city has worn off for Bryant, but the reigning MVP appeared to enjoy every big 3 that pushed back the Sixers. He had the lopsided edge in a late, 1-on-1 battle with Andre Iguodala and gave Los Angeles a needed pick-me-up.

The Lakers improved to 15-2 one night after they lost in Indiana on a late tip. Bryant was 12-for-20 from the floor and sank all seven free throws.

"If Kobe shoots the ball that well, we're going to have a good winning percentage because he's going to take most of the shots," Jackson said.

Pau Gasol had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Andrew Bynum scored 18 points for the Lakers.

Los Angeles never let the middling Sixers get too close in this one. Philadelphia was within six in the third quarter when Derek Fisher and Bryant nailed 3-pointers that ballooned the lead to double digits.

"We have all the confidence in the world," Bryant said. "The key is defense. We've got to hold the other team down when it counts."

Andre Miller scored 26 points and Iguodala had 19 for the Sixers, who played the entire fourth quarter and the last 4:50 of the third without Elton Brand.

The Sixers said Brand had a strained right hamstring -- one reason he was limited to three points on 1-for-7 shooting in 25 ineffective minutes. Brand will be evaluated on Thursday.

A Sixers spokesman said Brand didn't inform the team of the injury until midway through the fourth.

"I think he's a little bit sore," Miller said. "It's tough on the back-to-back with the injury he's been through. We'll see how he is."

The wildly inconsistent Sixers hoped to get their groove back after a 103-95 overtime win at Chicago on Tuesday. Again, they couldn't get Iguodala, Miller and Brand going offensively at the same time. They lost for the fifth time in six games and haven't won consecutive games since Nov. 21-23.

Team president Ed Stefanski said before the game he wasn't shocked the Sixers are having trouble adjusting to new roles that came with Brand's free-agent arrival.

Stefanski said he's always looking at ways to make the Sixers better. While it's not necessarily time for major moves yet, they might not be far off if the Sixers continue to plod along in the East.

"You'll never hear patience come out of my mouth," Stefanski said, laughing. "I'm one of the fans. I know how they are. I'm not going to use that word."

Brand was signed to an $80 million deal to deliver big games against teams like the Lakers. The Sixers can't afford a serious injury to Brand if they want to make a move in the East.

With Brand on the bench, guard Lou Williams tried to rally the Sixers in the fourth. He scored all 15 of his points in the quarter and made three 3s, including two straight that pulled Philadelphia to 101-91.

Hearing some faint chants of "MVP!" mixed in with the usual Philly boos, Bryant sank a pair of free throws at the 2-minute mark that gave the Lakers a 108-97 lead, then followed with a spinning, right-handed layup that put the game away. Just for fun, he drilled a 3 the next time down and appeared to stare at Philly's bench.

With less than a minute left, Iguodala decided to guard Bryant as though Game 7 of a playoff series was tied. Bryant was called for a push-off foul, and what was left of the crowd howled at the late-game theatrics.

"Andre took a challenge with guarding Kobe," 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Nobody can shut down Kobe. [Bryant] controls the game the way he likes to, posting shots and getting to the rim."

Game notes
Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins was at the game. ... The Lakers have won five of six against the Sixers. ... The Lakers made more free throws (22) than the Sixers attempted (20). ... Bryant scored only 34 points in two games vs. Philadelphia last season.