MILWAUKEE -- Shannon Brown said his goal is to win the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year. To be a serious candidate, he'll need to keep repeating performances like this one.
"I'm going to keep working and we're going to keep winning," Brown said. "It's more about doing what I've got to do to help my team win."
Los Angeles had started 8-0 before the consecutive losses, but Brown and Bryant sparked the Lakers on both ends of the floor against what had been the stingiest defense in the NBA.
"He's even a better shooter than he was last year," Bryant said. "You see him now making plays off the dribble, making plays for others, passing off the dribble. He continues to get better. This is just the beginning for him."
Bryant scored 13 points in the third quarter, including seven straight in a crucial stretch. Brown didn't skip a beat in the fourth, hitting four 3-pointers that stifled the Bucks' rally.
"Tried to open it up, that's my job coming off the bench, to get momentum if we're lacking or do whatever it takes," Brown said. "Today, it was hitting shots and playing defense."
Brown's reverse layup gave Los Angeles a 99-88 lead with just over eight minutes to play. Then the reserve guard added a jumper and a 3-pointer moments later to make it 104-90.
After Milwaukee went on a 7-0 run, Brown hit another 3 that pushed the lead back out to 107-97, and Milwaukee never got within two possessions of tying.
Gooden, Brown's former teammate in Cleveland and Chicago, just shook his head when reciting Brown's stat line.
"Shannon was so efficient out there for them. Seven of nine from the field, 21 points, 21 minutes, zero turnovers coming off the bench; that's an efficient game coming off the bench," Gooden said.
Bryant, who improved to 22-4 against Milwaukee, hurt the Bucks in the third quarter, scoring seven straight to break open a tight game in the first of three-game Midwest swing for Los Angeles that includes stops in Detroit and Minnesota.
After Bryant hit two free throws, he stripped John Salmons on the ensuing possession and got the ball back from Derek Fisher on the fast break. Bryant hit an easy layup as Jennings fouled him and converted the three-point play.
Bryant then drew another foul, this time on Salmons, and hit both of the free throws to make it 82-75.
Milwaukee had held some potent offenses to pitiful performances during its three-game winning streak. But there wouldn't be a repeat performance against the Lakers, who got to the rim and the foul line seemingly as much as they wanted. Pau Gasol had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Lamar Odom added 13 points and Fisher had 10.
Los Angeles showed it could play a little defense that was been missing, too, in losses to Phoenix and Denver. Milwaukee committed four turnovers in the stretch because of the Lakers' pressure, even as the pace clearly favored Los Angeles.
"We talked about it at halftime, doing a better job defensively, we were really poor in the first half, just giving layup after layup," Bryant said. "It was good. It was not what we're used to doing, but it's a step in that direction."
The Lakers came in as the highest-scoring team in the NBA, averaging 112.5 points, and the Bucks were allowing an NBA-low 89.4. Steve Blake's 3-pointer busted the 90-point mark in the closing seconds of the third quarter and gave the Lakers their biggest lead, 90-81, heading into the fourth.
"They're the No. 1 offensive team in the league. We're the No. 1 defensively," Bogut said. "They won that battle, but I think we just have to do a better job defensively. We gave them a lot of easy baskets."
Lakers forward Ron Artest only played 17½ minutes and asked to come out of the game but insisted nothing was wrong afterward. Coach Phil Jackson said Artest would play on Wednesday night against Detroit. ... Bogut went 2-of-10 from the free-throw line. ... Lakers center Theo Ratliff had arthroscopic surgery Tuesday to remove torn cartilage in his left knee. Ratliff is expected to miss four to six weeks. Los Angeles is also without center Andrew Bynum, who hasn't returned from offseason knee surgery. The Lakers hope he'll return to practice next week. Jackson said that they may need to get another big man to bolster their frontcourt.
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