LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers used a big early run to take command, increased their lead to as much as 18 then held on against the feisty New Orleans Hornets to take a 111-106 win Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Trailing by 18 with just under six minutes remaining, the Hornets used a 21-4 run to cut the deficit to 102-101 with 2:05 left.
However, the Lakers regained control as Earl Clark dropped in a layup, Steve Nash drained a 3-pointer, and after a 28-foot 3-pointer from New Orleans' Eric Gordon, Antawn Jamison drove to the hoop for a finger-roll layup with 15.1 seconds left to ice Los Angeles' third straight win.
The biggest catalyst to the Lakers' recent success? Kobe Bryant has become one of the game's most prolific passers.
Bryant had 11 assists -- after back-to-back 14-assist games, both in wins -- to go along with 14 points and eight rebounds.
With Bryant changing his game, the Lakers' offense has come alive around him, particularly in the post. Los Angeles had six players score in double figures, led by Dwight Howard, who had 24 points. Clark added 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Jamison finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, and Jodie Meeks added 13 points as the Lakers bench finished with a plus-minus of plus-59, boosted by the return of backup point guard Steve Blake from a long injury layoff.
Gordon hit six 3-pointers in eight attempts and scored 25 points to lead the Hornets, who shot 26 percent from the field in the second quarter. Greivis Vasquez continued his strong play with 15 points and 15 assists, and Robin Lopez added 16 points and nine rebounds.
Ryan Anderson had 16 points off the bench for New Orleans, but the rest of the Hornets' reserves shot just 5-for-23.
NOTES: Blake last played for the Lakers on Nov. 11 in a 103-90 win over Sacramento. With Nash hurt early in the season, Blake assumed the starting point guard role and was averaging 26 minutes, 5.1 points and 3.4 assists per game before being injured. ... The Lakers won the teams' other matchup this season, a 103-87 win on Dec. 5 that featured some of the team's best offense of the year. Los Angeles had 24 assists, just nine turnovers and shot better than 46 percent from 3-point range in the win. ... Vasquez entered the night ranked third in the NBA with an average of 9.2 assists per game. He recorded his 20th double-digit assist game. ... Los Angeles swept the season series last year, 3-0. ... Anderson's seven 3-pointers in a 91-83 Hornets win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 27 marked his 10th game with five or more 3-pointers this season. He went 3-for-7 from long range Tuesday.