Kobe Bryant

The pieces of the puzzle that have been the Lakers’ confounding season so far are starting to fall into place.

Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, the defense stepped up, and Los Angeles beat the New York Knicks 100-94 on Tuesday, extending its winning streak to five games.

”We’re .500,” a smiling Dwight Howard said. ”We did it on Christmas, too. I knew this day would come.”

Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. Anthony said he hyperextended his left knee, but expects to play on Wednesday in Phoenix.

Bryant, the league’s leading scorer, has topped 30 or more points in nine straight games…

The Lakers improved to 14-14 - 9-9 under new coach Mike D’Antoni - and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home. They returned to .500 for the first time since they were 8-8 on Nov. 30…

The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five as the Lakers’ defense clamped down. World Peace fouled out with 1:58 to play and the Lakers ahead by four…

Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his second game in nearly two months. He missed 24 straight games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg. Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Gasol had 13 points and eight rebounds…

World Peace scored 16 points in the second quarter, including eight in a row, when the Lakers played catch-up most of the way. His 3-pointer gave the Lakers their first lead of the period with 1:10 remaining. Smith tied it up with a free throw before Nash’s jumper sent the Lakers into halftime leading 51-49.

– Reported by Beth Harris of the Associated Press