Kobe Bryant has not consistently put up his typically gaudy scoring totals this season. The Los Angeles Lakers are winning anyway.
The Lakers will look for their fourth straight win on Tuesday night when they begin a three-game road trip against the Indiana Pacers.
Bryant, the NBA's scoring champion each of the past two seasons, is averaging 26.3 points to rank among the league's top five but that's well below his 31.6 average from 2006-07. He's taking fewer shots while getting his teammates more involved, and most importantly, Los Angeles (6-3) is off to a strong start.
In a 106-78 victory over Chicago on Sunday, Bryant had just 18 points - the second game in a row he failed to score 20 - but the Lakers won going away. The bench accounted for 73 points and five Lakers reserves scored in double figures for the first time since March 9, 1985.
"Our guys are really jelling," said Bryant, who is 12-for-34 from the field over the last two games. "It's great for us because it's a long season. I think they have great chemistry, and they've worked really hard, as we all do."
The last time Bryant had scored fewer than 20 points in consecutive games was at the beginning of the 2006-07 season. He hasn't gone three straight without scoring 20 since April 2005.
Bryant has not scored more than 30 in six consecutive games, but the Lakers are among the NBA's highest-scoring teams at 104.0 points per contest. Los Angeles features six players - including four reserves - averaging between 9.3 and 14.8 points.
"Our bench is all into playing together," said forward Luke Walton, in a reserve role lately after starting the Lakers' first four games. "We have a lot of fun playing together. When you do that, you have success. You get into that groove playing with those guys. We're getting more of an identity, and we're having fun doing it."
The Lakers bench will be called upon to fill in for the injured Kwame Brown, who left in the first quarter against Chicago with what the team called moderate sprains of the left knee and ankle. X-rays were negative, but he isn't expected to travel with the team this week.
This road trip includes games at Milwaukee and Boston for the Lakers, who already have posted impressive road wins at Phoenix and Houston.
Indiana (4-6) got off to a 3-0 start before losing its next six games by an average of 11.0 points. The Pacers put an emphatic stop to their skid, however, blowing out Utah 117-97 on Saturday night.
"It feels a whole lot better to get that monkey off our back," said Pacers forward Shawne Williams, who scored 16 points. "A lot of people were getting disgruntled because everybody is competitors in here. Nobody likes to lose."
The six-game slide was the Pacers' worst since losing 11 straight between Feb. 23 and March 14.
Indiana's balanced offense features six players with double-figure scoring averages, led by Danny Granger. The third-year forward from New Mexico is scoring 17.8 points per game, though he was 7-of-25 from the field in the two games prior to Saturday's win.
"You have to keep shooting," said Granger, who was 6-of-10 and scored 19 points. "If you're open, you've got to shoot them. We're all really good shooters, we know that. Our shots are going to fall eventually."
The Pacers shot a season-best 58 percent from the field against Utah.
Indiana is averaging 100.3 points this season, but has given up 103.0 per game, one of the worst averages in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have allowed more than 100 in seven of their 10 games.
Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana's leading scorer for the past six seasons, was held to a season-low eight points on Saturday. He has averaged 19.9 points in 10 games against the Lakers since he was traded to the Pacers in 2000.
The Lakers have lost their last three visits to Indiana, with Bryant getting held to an average of 20.0 points.
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