Lakers’ 90-81 victory over Chicago Bulls featured plenty of team play

Lakers, 90, Bulls 81 Final

For first time in a week, the Lakers hardly offered any late-game theatrics.

Kobe Bryant didn’t offer any age-defying dunks. The Lakers didn’t storm back from a double-digit deficit, either.

Instead the Lakers grinded out a 90-81 victory Sunday over the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center by simply playing together.

At this point, the Lakers aren’t about dissecting wins. They just need plenty of them.

The Lakers (33-31) stayed above the .500 mark for two consecutive games for the first time all season. More importantly, they have a one-game lead over the Utah Jazz (32-31) for the eighth playoff spot. The Lakers are also only one game behind the Houston Rockets (34-30) for the seventh seed.

Still, there were plenty of signs that could make the Lakers feel good about themselves even if it lacked the late-game euphoria shown in recent games.

The Lakers’ win against Chicago marked a rare win against teams slated to make the playoffs, going only 10-25 this season against such opponents. There was also the play itself.

Dwight Howard’s impact went beyond his 16 points and 21 rebounds. He repeatedly gave problems to Chicago’s physical frontline in Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Howard set screens that set up plenty of open looks for him and his teammates. Howard sank a series of hook shots in the lane and threw down a few lobs from Bryant. All signs suggest that his surgically healed back and torn labrum in his right shoulder has healed for sure.

On a night where Bryant had an uncharacteristic off night (19 points on 7 of 16 shooting, two turnovers), Steve Nash carried the baton. Nash stormed out of the third quarter posting 10 of his 16 points, including a series of fall-back jumpers and one three-pointer. It looked like Nash hasn’t gotten used to and excelled this new role where he shoots and plays off-the-ball.

The Lakers also didn’t allow so many points, such as when they conceded 71 first-half points last week against Oklahoma City. The Lakers played at a deliberate pace that more suits their aging personnel. It also helped Chicago only shot XX from the field and that they’re without Derrick Rose (left knee), Taj Gibson (left knee), Richard Hamilton (lower back) and Kirk Hinrich (right foot).

Not everything remained pretty.

Howard still looked bad at the free throw line (0 of 5) and even airballed one of his attempts. Metta World Peace also airballed one of his six missed 3-point attempts. When Howard’s fourth foul put him on the bench with 3:15 left in the third quarter, the Bulls scored suix unanswered points to cut the Lakers ‘ lead to 69-55. Just before halftime, Bryant and World Peace exchanged words over his offensive foul and prompted Nash to play peacemaker.

But the Lakers looked too strong elsewhere, allowing them to walk off the court happy with the direction they’re headed.

Lakers, 44, Bulls 40 at halftime

For once, the Lakers aren’t giving up a lot of points to their opponents. It also helps that the Bulls aren’t making shots, going 17 of 42 from the field.

Though the Lakers have shot a diastroust 2 of 17 from three-point range, the Lakers are clicking in arious areas. DWight Howard has eight points and 11 rebounds, fighting off persistent double teams and getting putbacks.

Lakers 20, Bull 16 after first quarter

The Lakers are playing with the right energy. But if this game were NBA Jam, the announcer would yell, “Can’t buy a bucket.”

The Lakers have shot only 0 of 8 from 3-point range, including a 0 of 4 clip from Metta World Peace. Thankfully for the Lakers, the Bulls are only shooting 6 of 18 from the field. The Lakers and Bul

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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