Lakers 97, Raptors 85
Distraction? What distraction?
Only hours after losing Isaiah Rider to a five-game suspension for violating the NBA's drug policy, the Los Angeles Lakers played as if they had no worries in a 97-85 victory over Toronto.
As far as Kobe Bryant was concerned, his only worry was his energy level.
"It was one of the hardest games I ever played in. I wanted to go to sleep," said Bryant, who has played four games in five days. "It just caught up to me. Last night against Golden State, it was a similar first half, just real drowsy."
Bryant scored 17 of his 29 points in the third quarter, and the Lakers rallied for their eighth consecutive home win. The Lakers' fourth straight victory also moved them within a half-game of idle Portland for the Pacific Division lead.
Rider will miss five games for violating the NBA's anti-drug agreement. In keeping with terms of the policy, no details of his violation were released.
Grimacing because of his aching ankles, Bryant struggled on 1-of-10 shooting in the first half. But Bryant came alive during a 15-2 run in the third quarter that gave the Lakers the lead for good.
Against the defense of Vince Carter, Bryant had their final 10 points of the period, including an alley-oop dunk, two long-range jumpers and a layup, for a 76-67 lead.
Carter led the Raptors with 28 points. He had their first six points of the fourth before committing his fifth foul. At the same time, Bryant was scoring six in a row to give Los Angeles an 87-71 lead.
76ERS 102, NETS 94: At Philadelphia, Allen Iverson had 38 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter.
The Sixers scored the first basket of the game and then trailed until the fourth, when they outscored the Nets 27-15. Tyrone Hill had 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Dikembe Mutombo had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the 76ers, who have won three in a row and nine of last 11.
BUCKS 101, CELTICS 94: Sam Cassell scored 24 points and Tim Thomas added 22 points and 10 rebounds in Milwaukee's win at Boston.
Antoine Walker had 36 points and 11 rebounds and Paul Pierce had 30 and 10, but Boston's three other starters were held scoreless as the Celtics, who had a chance to move into a tie for the eighth Eastern Conference playoff spot, lost for the seventh time in nine games.
KNICKS 79, PACERS 75: Latrell Sprewell scored 26 points, including the go-ahead basket with 14 seconds left, as New York scored the final 10 points against Indiana.
MAVERICKS 93, HEAT 86:Dirk Nowitzki scored 29 points and Michael Finley hit a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as Dallas handed Miami its third loss in 17 home games.
KINGS 100, SUNS 89: At Phoenix, Chris Webber scored 24 of his 41 points in the second half as Sacramento came back from a 28-point deficit.
The rally was the biggest in the NBA this season, surpassing Sacramento's comeback from a 24-point deficit to beat Miami 101-97 on Dec. 10.
WIZARDS 88, CAVALIERS 83:Mitch Richmond scored 17 points and Washington rallied in the final four minutes to snap a seven-game losing streak by winning at Cleveland.
MAGIC 112, PISTONS 102: Tracy McGrady had 37 points and 11 rebounds and host Orlando won for the fifth time in six games.
McGrady also had five assists, three steals and three blocked shots and scored 30 or more points for the 20th time this season.
ROCKETS 104, HAWKS 98: At Atlanta, Steve Francis made a 3-point basket with 25.3 seconds left, and Houston came back from two 23-point deficits to send the Hawks to their season-high ninth straight loss.