dwight howard

Kobe Bryant played relentless defense, spurring his fellow Los Angeles Lakers to do the same. Dwight Howard dominated the paint, scoring easy baskets and blocking shots against the bewildered Bucks.

Over the last two games, the Lakers have resembled the powerhouse everybody envisioned before their tumultuous season began.

They’re about to find out whether they got it together in time to compete with the Miami Heat.

Howard had 31 points and 16 rebounds, Bryant also scored 31 points and the Lakers beat Milwaukee 104-88 Tuesday night for their second straight win after a six-game skid.

Metta World Peace added 12 points as the Lakers prepared for Thursday’s visit from the NBA champion Heat with an impressive effort featuring 30-point games for both Bryant and Howard for the second time in their brief tenure together. After a similar effort against Cleveland two days earlier, the Lakers are cautiously optimistic they’ve solved a few problems.

”It’s been great,” Howard said. ”When we play the way we played these last two games, I don’t see anybody beating us. The problem is we have to do it on a consistent basis and not have any lapses during the game. We’re learning, but stuff like that takes time. The biggest thing, we’ve just got to stick together. We can’t let nothing on the outside tear us apart.” …

Monta Ellis scored 17 points for the Bucks, who lost for the second time in five games under interim coach Jim Boylan. Brandon Jennings was held to 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting by Bryant, and Milwaukee’s young star emerged from Staples Center with newfound respect for the fifth-leading scorer in NBA history.

– Reported by Greg Beachman of the Associated Press