Fantasy Football 2014:

Lakers claim first win since Kobe's return

The SportsXchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Los Angeles Lakers are no longer 0-for-Kobe.

The Lakers rallied to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 88-85 on Saturday night for their first win in four games since forward Kobe Bryant returned to the lineup.

They scored the final nine points after trailing 85-79 with 2:50 remaining and Bryant played a huge role. He scored on a drive with 1:22 remaining to cut the deficit to 85-84 and then hit two free throws with 37.1 seconds left to give the Lakers the lead for good at 86-85.

Bryant, who had just four points in the Lakers' 25-point loss at Oklahoma City on Friday night, said he felt good playing in his first back-to-back. He returned to the team on Dec. 8 after undergoing Achilles surgery last April.

Bryant took a big-picture approach to the victory, shrugging off the suggestion that he might be relieved to get his first win since returning.

"I knew it was coming eventually," he said. "It's not really a big deal. We all understand it's a marathon, not a sprint. We've got to focus on doing it game in and game out. Some games like this you're going to lose, but you have to continue to make steps in the right direction. That's the most important thing."

The victory moved the Lakers' record to 11-12.

"I felt good tonight," said Bryant, who was 8 of 15 from the field and also had eight assists, seven rebounds and seven turnovers in a season-high 32 minutes.

"The ankle felt good, the foot felt good. I felt I could sustain a little more minutes tonight. It was good to be in that kind of atmosphere again. You miss those moments when you're out, particularly on the road. It's always fun to close a team out down the stretch."

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said he saw improvement in the way Bryant moved, and he was pleased with the way Bryant and others showed heart and rose to the occasion in the closing minutes.

"I think he looked a little better tonight," D'Antoni said. "I think he got his legs under his shot a little better. He got tired. He got tired toward the end, it was a back-to-back for the first time.

"He has a lot of things he has to work through, and we have to somehow find some wins, gut it out. It's not pretty right now. But we've got to get some guys healthy and get Kobe well, and then we have a chance."

The Lakers also got 15 points and nine rebounds from forward Jordan Hill, and 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots from center Pau Gasol. Guard Nick young added 13 points off the bench.

Gasol had two blocked shots against Charlotte center Al Jefferson in the final three possessions that allowed the Lakers to survive.

"They were great defensive plays," Bryant said. "We've got to do a better job of hanging our hat on that defensively. He made some huge defensive plays. But we've got to go. We've got to kick it into high gear, he and I."

The Bobcats, who suffered their third straight loss and fell to 10-14, were clearly frustrated afterward. They led by as many as nine points in the third quarter.

They missed their last eight shots from the field after guard Kemba Walker's jumper from the side gave them an 85-79 lead with 2:50 remaining. Their last chance to force overtime ended when guard Ben Gordon missed a 3-pointer in the final two seconds.

"You've got to be more consistent and execute down the stretch, on both ends," Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson said. "That goes for everbody, myself included. I bailed Kobe out and fouled him on one possession and those are the kinds of plays you can't have down the stretch."

Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said, "It was a good game. We did a lot of good things. The bottom line is we were one stop away from winning the game. One possession, one stop and one rebound, and we would have won the game. But we didn't get it."

Walker led the Bobcats with 24 points, going 10 of 13 from the field. Jefferson had 14 points and nine rebounds, Henderson scored 13 and Gordon had 10 points.

NOTES: The Lakers have used five different starting lineups in their last six games. ... The Bobcats continue to be without F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (fractured left hand) and C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot). ... The Lakers were without G Steve Nash (nerve root irritation), G Steve Blake (torn UCL), C Chris Kaman (back spasms) and G Jordan Farmar (torn left hamstring). ... At this time last season, the Bobcats were in the middle of an 18-game losing streak. ... Bobcats coach Steve Clifford was an assistant with the Lakers last season. ... The Bobcats have now held 20 of their 24 opponents below 100 points. That leads the NBA. ... The Lakers were playing the second game of a four-game Eastern trip. They'll play at Atlanta on Monday and at Memphis on Tuesday. ... The Bobcats will remain home to face Sacramento on Tuesday.

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Draft time:
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