LOS ANGELES -- At this point, the Los Angeles Lakers are just in survival mode.
At least, that's how they spent much of the second half of their matchup with the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers survived one of Kobe Bryant's worst career performances, then endured a brutal third quarter before turning it on late in a 91-85 win over the struggling Suns.
The Lakers shot just 15 percent from the field and hit just three field goals while committing six turnovers in the third quarter to squander a nine-point halftime lead. Phoenix went on an 18-2 run midway through the quarter. However, Los Angeles gradually chipped away at the small Phoenix lead early in the fourth quarter and took control with an 8-2 run midway through the period to take the win.
"Our defense was pretty good down the stretch," Lakers center Dwight Howard said. "We forced them to make some tough plays, take some tough shots. Then on the offensive end, the pick and roll was working for us."
Added Phoenix coach Lindsey Hunter: "When you put yourself behind the way we did in the first half and they are fighting uphill, it's tough. You can't fight back and be even with them. You have to fight back and kind of take a big lead and we could never quite pull away."
Los Angeles had a balanced scoring attack with five players in double figures, but none with more than 19 points. Bryant, the third-leading scorer in the NBA, was not among the Lakers in double figures, finishing with just four points as he passed up open look after open look.
Bryant had no shot attempts in the first half, when he compiled eight assists. He finished the game with eight shot attempts but only one field goal. He wound up with nine assists, five rebounds and eight turnovers. Bryant denied that he was looking to past too often, saying, "I just took the double teams and tried to make the right play."
Howard led the Lakers with 19 points and 18 rebounds, and Antawn Jamison added 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Metta World Peace had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Steve Nash added 10 points and eight assists for Los Angeles, which shot 36-for-83 (43.4 percent) from the field.
"We should be able to do that with the personnel we have here," Jamison said about the Lakers winning despite Bryant's poor game. "It lets us know we can trust us if Kobe is feeling it or not. We have key guys at certain positions who can come in and pick up the slack if the superstars are struggling."
Like the Lakers, Phoenix had five players in double figures, paced by Michael Beasley's 18 points off the bench. Fellow reserve Jermaine O'Neal added 12 points and 13 rebounds, and Luis Scola had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns, who have lost four straight.
"We're slowly making progress," Hunter said. "Defensively, we still get stagnant at times and we get lost, but I think the third quarter was probably one of the best quarters we have had defensively this season. When you see signs of things that we've been working on, it's encouraging."
NOTES: Los Angeles center Pau Gasol remains out with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. Jordan Hill (left hip surgery) is also out for the Lakers. ... Forward Channing Frye (enlarged heart) remains out for the Suns. ... The Lakers and Suns split the first two games of the season series, with the Lakers claiming an early-season home win, 114-102 on Nov. 16, 2012, and the Suns taking the 92-86 win at the US Airways Center on Jan. 30. ... The teams tied last season's series 2-2. ... Nash entered the game just 17 assists shy of tying Magic Johnson for fourth on the all-time list. ... The Lakers dropped three games during their annual Grammy road trip for the fourth consecutive season. ... The Suns fell to 4-8 under Hunter since the Jan. 20 coaching change.