Kobe Bryant scored 21 points in 32 minutes – both season highs – and made a big defensive play in the final seconds as the visiting Los Angeles Lakers scored an 88-85 NBA victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
It was the Lakers’ first win since the return of their superstar after they had lost their first three games since he returned from a torn achilles tendon six days ago.
Spanish star Pau Gasol added 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks for the Lakers (11-12).
In addition to working his way back into form, Bryant has been forced to play point guard due to injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar.
The Lakers trailed 85-84 when Bryant pump-faked to draw a foul from Gerald Henderson.
His two free throws gave Los Angeles the lead with 37 seconds left.
Henderson and Al Jefferson missed jumpers for Charlotte, and Gasol made two foul shots with 6.2 seconds to play.
Bryant harassed Ben Gordon on a potential tying three-pointer that fell well short, giving the Lakers the win.
Elsewhere, LeBron James had 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and Dwyane Wade scored 24 points as the Miami Heat downed the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-107 to improve to 10-2 at home and stopped the Cavaliers’ three-game winning streak.
The visiting Portland Trail Blazers blasted the Philadelphia 76ers 139-105, the San Antonio Spurs handled hosts Utah Jazz 100-84, the Dallas Mavericks cruised past the Milwaukee Bucks 106-93, the visiting Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Washington Wizards 113-97, the New York Knicks edged the Atlanta Hawks 111-106 and the visiting Toronto Raptors stopped the Chicago Bulls 99-77.