LOS ANGELES - Kobe Bryant asked to be traded last spring in part because he wanted to play for a team that could contend for a championship. He just might have gotten his wish by staying put.
Bryant scored 26 of his 38 points in the second half, Andrew Bynum had a career-high 28 points to go with 12 rebounds and a season-high four assists, and the Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns, 122-115, last night for their ninth win in 11 games.
The victory lifted the Lakers (18-10) to a season-high eight games over .500 and within one game of the Pacific Division-leading Suns (19-9), who lost for the fifth time in eight games.
Bryant, who complained about a lack of talent around him, has gotten plenty of help recently, especially from the 20-year-old Bynum, who shot 11 of 13 in outplaying Phoenix center Amare Stoudemire.
Bynum left to a roar of approval from the Staples Center crowd of 18,997 and a hand-slap from Bryant with 11.5 seconds to play.
Derek Fisher added 19 points, Lamar Odom had 15 points and 14 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza scored 14 points in his first start since being acquired from Orlando last month.
Steve Nash led the Suns with 24 points and 14 assists. Six of his teammates scored in double figures including Stoudemire, who had 19 points but only six rebounds, Shawn Marion, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Raja Bell, who also scored 15, and Grant Hill, who added 14.
Bryant, who became the youngest player ever to reach 20,000 career points Sunday in New York, moved past Tom Chambers into 30th place on the career list with his 31st point of this game, which came on a corkscrew jumper that gave the Lakers a 102-95 lead.
Cavaliers 96, Heat 82
CLEVELAND - LeBron James scored 25 points and Cleveland's defense arrived in time for the holiday, sparking the struggling Cavaliers to a win over Miami.
James, who left Quicken Loans Arena in disgust following an embarrassing loss to Golden State on Sunday, added 12 assists and outshined fellow superstar and good friend Dwyane Wade, who scored 22 points but didn't make his first field goal of the second half until 4 minutes, 1 second remained.
By then, the Cavs were already up by 12 points, and they went on to win for just the fourth time in their last 14 games. James had plenty of help: Drew Gooden scored 18 points, Daniel Gibson 16, Anderson Varejao 15, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas 13.
Wade finished just 7 of 18 from the floor and 8 of 16 from the free-throw line for Miami, which began the season as one of the Eastern Conference's favorites but is headed in the wrong direction.
Trail Blazers 89, Sonics 79
PORTLAND, Ore. - Brandon Roy and Jarrett Jack each scored 17 points, and Portland extended its winning streak to 11 games with a victory over Seattle.
It is the longest current winning streak in the NBA, and the best run for the Blazers since they won 12 straight during the 2001-02 season.
Joel Przybilla had a season-high 16 rebounds, as well as six points, and the Blazers improved their record at the Rose Garden this season to 13-3.
Seattle's Kevin Durant, averaging nearly 20 points per game to lead the league's rookies, had 23 points.
McGrady's knee undamaged.
An MRI on Tracy McGrady's left knee Monday showed swelling in the tendon but no damage, the Houston Chronicle reported.
McGrady, the Rockets' leading scorer at 22.8 points a game, left at halftime of Houston's loss at Detroit on Sunday after aggravating the knee, which was injured Dec. 19.