CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Los Angeles Lakers are having all kinds of problems this season, but that didn't prevent them from rallying from a 20-point third-quarter deficit and pulling out a 100-93 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
After going scoreless in the first half, Kobe Bryant took over late, scoring 14 points in the final seven minutes, including the Lakers' final eight of the game. He finished with a team-high 20.
Bryant made it clear that he was far from pleased with the performance, though.
Asked if he felt relieved or irritated afterward, he didn't hesitate.
"Irritated," Bryant said. "It's irritating. It's irritating."
Coach Mike D'Antoni acknowledged the various distractions, supposed rifts and lack of cohesion among his players, but he was happy with the way his team dug in and rallied after trailing 71-51 with 5:26 left in the third quarter.
"We started fighting," D'Antoni said. "Our defense started kicking in and some guys came off the bench and contributed. That's the key, we've got to fight. We've got to put all the B.S. on the side and shut up and play hard. Hopefully we've learned that and hopefully we can learn that.
"It was there the last 16 minutes to get us back in there. We've got to be able to either put earplugs in or mufflers on or blinders like the Kentucky Derby horses, just get those blinders on and play. We've got so much stuff going on here, every little thing is blown up big. And whether it's right or wrong or blown out of proportion, it affects us. It is a distraction and it saps energy. We've just got to be able to close that out somehow."
The victory was the Lakers' fourth in six games on this seven-game road trip, and raised their record to 24-27. It came after the worst loss of the season -- a 116-95 defeat at Boston on Thursday night.
It was also similar to the Lakers' 101-100 victory over the Bobcats in Los Angeles on Dec. 18, when the Lakers rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit.
The Lakers wound up outscoring the Bobcats 31-15 in the fourth quarter Friday. They took the lead for good at 92-91 on Jody Meeks' 3-pointer with 3:02 remaining, and then Bryant hit four free throws, a bank shot and a layup to score on four of the Lakers' last five possessions.
"He just had that look in his eye," teammate Antawn Jamison said. "He tried to get the guys involved in the first half being the facilitator, and as the game goes along he starts to take over. He did that tonight. He was aggressive, and he took us over the edge. I think in the future that's the way you're going to see us play - him getting guys the ball to start with and then as the game gets closer to the fourth quarter, he'll start to take over a little bit."
"I just read the defense and try to make the right play," said Bryant, who hadn't been held scoreless in a half since March 31 of last season against the New Orleans Hornets. "I don't try to force things. Just make the right play. In the second half I got in position where I could catch and turn and shoot a little bit, and they became reluctant to double team as much because we started knocking down some shots. That makes the game a lot easier."
Besides Bryant's 20, the Lakers got 17 points each from Earl Clark and Steve Nash, 12 points and 11 rebounds from Dwight Howard, and 11 points from Metta World Peace.
Byron Mullens had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Gerald Henderson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bobcats. The Bobcats are now 22-38, the worst record in the NBA, and have lost six straight.
"I liked the effort all the way around," Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. "It was a helluva basketball game. I know you want your return as a win, but our team is ever-improving as we're going down this tough journey. There's no doubt about it. We're playing a good brand of basketball. We couldn't have given a better physical and mental effort tonight in many ways."
Notes: The Lakers will close out this seven-game road trip on Sunday at Miami. ... Bryant went into Friday's game averaging 29.3 in his career against the Bobcats, which is his highest career average against any team in the league. ... Pau Gasol returned to Los Angeles after suffering a torn plantar fascia in his right foot at Brooklyn on Tuesday, and he is expected to miss 6-8 week. ... Friday night's game was a homecoming for Lakers assistant Bernie Bickerstaff, the Bobcats' coach and general manager in their first three seasons. Bickerstaff was 4-1 earlier this season as the Lakers' interim coach during the transition from Mike Brown to D'Antoni. ... The Bobcats were returning home on Friday night after going 0-5 on a 10-day road trip. They will hit the road again Saturday for a game at Philadelphia.