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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kobe Bryant shrugged off a scoreless first half to finish with 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds and the Los Angeles Lakers overcome a 20-point second-half deficit to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 100-93 Friday night.
The Lakers avoided a costly defeat to the NBA’s worst team and pulled within three games of .500.
Bryant attempted only two shots in the first half and didn’t come out for warm-ups to start the second half.
But he provided the jolt the Lakers needed in the third quarter and scored 14 points in the final period, including a driving layup with 40 seconds left to push the lead to five.
Steve Nash and Earl Clark each had 17 points and Dwight Howard had 12 points, all in the first half, and 11 rebounds for the Lakers (24-27).
Byron Mullens and Gerald Henderson each had 20 points for the Bobcats, who have lost six straight.
Charlotte led 71-51 in the third quarter, but the Lakers stormed back behind a 9-0 run. They cut the lead to one on a driving layup by Bryant with 6:06 left in the game and Antawn Jamison gave the Lakers their first lead with 4:46 remaining on a left-handed finger roll in the lane.
The Lakers took the lead for good at 92-91 when Jodie Meeks made a 3-pointer with 3:02 left in the game.
The Lakers have been unpredictable this season, particularly on the road where they were 8-17 coming into this game.
It appeared they had things headed in the right direction after winning three straight games on the road before faltering badly in Boston on Thursday night and losing to the rival Celtics 116-95.
Before Friday night’s game against Charlotte, coach Mike D’Antoni was asked if the Bobcats were a dangerous opponent for his team.
“We’re playing, aren’t we? (Then) there’s a danger,” D’Antoni said with a laugh. “If they play the national anthem, we’re in danger.”
He was right.
The Lakers started slow, looking out of sync just as they have for a good portion of the season as pick and rolls turned into turnovers and layups on the other end. They turned the ball over five times in the game’s first eight minutes and fell behind 20-9.
Bryant took only one shot in the first quarter, missing a fall away jumper. The Lakers struggled without him, going 8 of 21 from the field.
Charlotte built its lead to 53-41 at halftime behind 14 points from Mullens. Again, Bryant only attempted one shot in the second quarter, another missed jumper.