CHICAGO – Sasha Vujacic scored 19 points, Lamar Odom added 17 points and 16 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Chicago Bulls 103-91 Tuesday night.
Slowed by a groin injury, Kobe Bryant scored 18 points for the Lakers, but was a non-factor for long stretches against the team he targeted as a possible destination during the offseason.
Odom started an 11-point run with a layup and capped it with a dunk as the Lakers turned an 86-83 lead into a 14-point advantage with 3:24 left in the game. In between, they took advantage of several turnovers, and got an alley-oop dunk by Andrew Bynum and a layup and 3-pointer by Jordan Farmar.
Bryant seemed fine when he converted an alley-oop dunk in the game’s opening minute, but he missed his next seven shots and was 7-for-19 overall. His skid ended with a jumper and a layup with just over 2 minutes remaining in the first half.
Bryant then scored the Lakers’ first six points of the third quarter, starting with a thunderous reverse dunk in transition about 40 seconds into the period, but he needed help and got it.
Vujacic scored nine in the fourth quarter, and Luke Walton and Bynum finished with 12 points apiece. Bynum also grabbed 10 rebounds.
Luol Deng led Chicago with 26 points, and Kirk Hinrich finished with 17 points and eight assists. Andres Nocioni scored 14 points, but hurt his foot late in the game.
Bryant heard a few more cheers than boos during pregame introductions and one kid sitting about 10 rows off the court wore a Bulls jersey with masking tape and the number 24 scrawled on it.
There were oohs and aahs when Luke Walton found a cutting Bryant for an all-oop over Kirk Hinrich, but there was nothing like the “Kobe! Kobe!” chorus that roared through the United Center during several home games last month. Those chants were in response to trade talks that fell through and the Bulls’ slow start.
The Kobe rumors picked up so much steam that Chicago general manager John Paxson did his best to squash them on the eve of the home opener, saying the teams were never on the verge of a deal.
A day later, fans chanted “Kobe! Kobe!” in the closing seconds as the Bulls fell to Philadelphia. The chorus continued during a 2-10 start that included a 106-78 loss at Los Angeles — Chicago’s most lopsided loss ever to the Lakers.
Those chants haven’t been heard in weeks, with the Bulls winning six of nine entering Tuesday’s game.
The early cheers, oohs and aahs quickly turned to boos for Bryant after that alley oop.
That play aside, the groin he injured late in Friday’s loss at Golden State limited him, and the two-time defending scoring champion spent most of the first half on the perimeter. – AP