Kobe Bryant asked to be traded last spring in part because he wanted to play for a team that could contend for an NBA title.
He just might have gotten his wish by staying put.
Bryant scored 26 of his 38 points in the second half, Andrew Bynum had a career-high 28 points to go with 12 rebounds and a season-high four assists, and the Lakers beat the Phoenix Suns, 122-115, yesterday for their ninth win in 11 games.
"I'm focused on one thing and one thing only - winning the championship," Bryant said after the Lakers moved a season-high eight games over .500 at 18-10 and within one game of the Pacific Division-leading Suns.
Bryant, who complained about a lack of talent around him, has gotten plenty of help recently, especially from the 20-year-old Bynum, who made 11 of 13 shots in outplaying Phoenix center Amare Stoudemire.
Bynum left to a roar of approval from the Staples Center crowd of 18,997 and a hand-slap from Bryant with 11.5 seconds to play.
"We're getting better. It's just about getting better each day," Bryant said. "It's good to have games like this. We have a solid foundation, we really do. When you play against Phoenix, you have to be solid."
Derek Fisher added 19 points, Lamar Odom had 15 points and 14 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza scored 14 points in his first start since being acquired from Orlando last month.
While Odom didn't mince words, calling Bynum one of the NBA's best centers, others weren't so quick to make such a jump.
"At the end of the year, if he is the MVP, then we'll say what a great year he had," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
After matching his career high by playing 42 minutes, Bynum said he felt great.
"I feel like I could play another game right now," he said. "I put in all the hard work just for this. It's paying off. This definitely was one of my better games. Made a pretty big impact, teammates looking for me, wide open a lot of the times and they found me today.
"So far, perfect Christmas."
Steve Nash led the Suns with 24 points and 14 assists.
Trail Blazers 89, SuperSonics 79 - Brandon Roy and Jarrett Jack each scored 17 points, and host Portland extended its winning streak to 11 games.
It is the longest current winning streak in the NBA, and the best run for the Blazers since they won 12 straight during the 2001-02 season.
Joel Przybilla had a season-high 16 rebounds, as well as 6 points, and the Blazers improved their record at the Rose Garden to 13-3.
After a close first half, Portland pulled away in the third quarter with a 16-2 run capped by Roy's 3-pointer that put the Blazers ahead, 66-50.
Rookie Kevin Durant scored 23 for Seattle.
Cavaliers 96, Heat 82 - LeBron James scored 25 points, Drew Gooden had 18, Daniel Gibson added 16, and host Cleveland shut down Miami.
James added 12 assists and outshined his fellow superstar and good friend, Dwyane Wade, who scored 22 points but didn't make his first field goal of the second half until there was only 4:01 remaining.