Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard scored 16 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, Kobe Bryant chipped in with 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Chicago Bulls 90-81 Sunday.

The Lakers improved to 33-31, the first time this season they have been two games over .500. They also moved one-half game of the Utah Jazz and into sole possession of the No. 8 and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Lakers led almost throughout, only briefly falling behind by two points in the second quarter, and led by as many as 18 in the third period.

Steve Nash had 16 points for the Lakers.

Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 19 points, and Joakim Noah had 18 points and 17 rebounds…

After a sluggish first half by both teams, the Lakers came out hot to start the third quarter. Led by 10 points from Nash, Los Angeles went on a 21-7 run to begin the quarter, capped by a 3-pointer by Jodie Meeks that gave the Lakers a 65-47 lead. But the Bulls responded with an 8-0 spurt to narrow their deficit to 65-55…

Bryant took only three shots in the first quarter, going scoreless in the opening 12 minutes. Metta World Peace was cold as well, missing four open 3-pointers, but the Lakers held an early lead thanks to Howard’s efforts down low. Though he missed all three free throws he took in the quarter, Howard was 3 of 3 from the field for six points and grabbed seven rebounds.

– Reported by Joe Haakenson of the Associated Press