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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers waged a furious fourth-quarter rally then staved off multiple game-winning attempts by the Charlotte Bobcats to take the 101-100 win on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Down by as much as 18 in the second half, Los Angeles went on a 28-4 run midway through the third quarter and into the fourth quarter as the Bobcats crumbled under the weight of Kobe Bryant.
Bryant had 30 points -- including a crucial 3-point play with 9:52 left in the game to give the Lakers the 87-84 lead, their first since late in the second quarter -- and added seven assists and six rebounds to lift the Lakers to their third straight win.
Lakers reserves Metta World Peace and Jodie Meeks each had 17 points, with Meeks hitting five 3-pointers, and Dwight Howard had 16 points and 18 rebounds as Los Angeles (12-14) used its size advantage to outlast the Bobcats (7-17). Helping the Lakers in the post was the return of Pau Gasol, who added 10 points and nine rebounds in his first start after missing eight games with tendinitis in both knees.
Sophomore guard Kemba Walker had 28 points and seven assists to lead Charlotte, which lost its 12th straight game after a 7-5 start. Ramon Sessions added 20 points and six assists off the bench to lead the Bobcats, but the rest of the Charlotte bench added just five points. The Bobcats shot just 40 percent from the field but stayed in the game with impressive rebounding, as Byron Mullens (17 rebounds) and Bismack Biyombo (11 rebounds) battled in the post.
Charlotte had several attempts at the basket with the clock winding down after Bryant missed a shot that could've made it a 3-point game, but the Lakers knocked the ball away in a late scrum and escaped with the win.
NOTES: Lakers guard Steve Nash could make his long-awaited debut as early as Saturday against the Golden State Warriors. Nash has been sidelined by a non-displaced fracture in his left leg since Halloween and said he is still feeling pain, but would practice this week. .. Before his return Tuesday night, Pau Gasol last played Dec. 2 in a 113-103 home loss to the Orlando Magic. In his absence, the Lakers went just 3-5 to fall to third place in the Western Conference's Pacific Division, 7.5 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers. Entering the game, Gasol was averaging a career-low 12.6 points and just 8.8 rebounds per game. ... Los Angeles won the lone matchup between the two teams last season, 106-73, on Jan. 31, 2012. The Lakers built a 24-point halftime lead as Bryant had all 24 of his points in the first half.