One of the many low points of this Lakers season came a month and a half ago on a cold night in Chicago with Kobe Bryant shooting bricks and Dwight Howard complaining about not getting to shoot anything. Bryant, Howard and the Lakers played the Bulls again on Sunday and showed how much things have warmed up since then. The Lakers beat the Bulls, 90-81, with another titanic Howard defensive effort meaning Bryant didn't have to carry an insane offensive load with late-game pyrotechnics for a third consecutive game. With the victory, the Lakers moved past Utah into the eighth and final Western Conference playoff slot by a half-game. Since being 17-25 on Jan. 23, the Lakers have gone 16-6. Howard's commitment to defensive excellence and dirty work such as setting screens on offense has been huge in the turnaround. After delivering 16 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks, Howard said his improved conditioning is driving improved activity and dared say about the Lakers' NBA title aspirations: "We have a great shot." One game after an impressed Howard said the fourth quarter was "Kobe time" and serenaded his teammate by humming "Bad to the Bone" for him, Bryant produced 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds – not forcing too much against Tom Thibodeau's stacked Bulls defense.