LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Though the Los Angeles Lakers still have their issues, they’re starting to find ways to win again.
The same can’t be said for the reeling Charlotte Bobcats.
The Lakers look to match a season high with their third straight victory and hand the Bobcats a 12th consecutive defeat Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Pau Gasol will return to the lineup after sitting out for two weeks with tendinitis on his knees.
Two days after snapping a four-game slide with a 102-96 victory at Washington, the Lakers defeated Philadelphia 111-98 on Sunday. They didn’t trail in the second half of either game.
“It’s guys playing with confidence and guys trusting each other,” Kobe Bryant said after going 12 for 21 from the field and scoring 34 points Sunday. “We played well, communicated well, kept attacking and good things happened.
“I know the questions have been coming because we hadn’t been winning, but our time will come.”
Metta World Peace had 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds while Dwight Howard added 17 and 11 for the Lakers, who won consecutive contests for the first time since a three-game run Nov. 16-20 once D’Antoni took over.
Though the last two wins have come against two of the NBA’s lowest-scoring teams, Los Angeles played better defensively after allowing 111.8 points per game over the previous four. The Lakers tied a season high by forcing 19 turnovers against the Wizards and caused 18 against the 76ers while recording a season-best 13 steals.
“Guys are playing well,” said point guard Chris Duhon, who matched a season high with 14 points Sunday.
Bryant has at least 30 points in six straight games, averaging 34.3 during that span, and leads the NBA in scoring (29.5 ppg). His 20.4 average against the Bobcats since the start of the 2009-10 season is his second-lowest against any opponent.
The Lakers also haven’t done particularly well against a perennially mediocre Bobcats team, losing eight of the past 12 meetings, but they’ve won the last two.
Charlotte (7-16) allowed 99.6 points per game while starting 7-5 but is giving up 108.5 during its 11-game skid. The Bobcats had two slides of at least 12 games while going 7-59 last season.
They were outrebounded 43-31 and let Orlando shoot a season-high 54.4 percent in Saturday’s 107-98 home loss.
“When you give up 54 percent shooting from the floor and they’re getting over 100 points regularly we know what the culprit is,” said coach Mike Dunlap, whose team has allowed at least 100 points in nine straight games and 12 of 13.
The Bobcats’ latest poor defensive effort overshadowed a career-high 32 points from second-year guard Kemba Walker, who went 11 of 20 from the field and recorded seven assists.
“I’m trying to get better,” said Walker, who averages team highs of 18.1 points and 6.1 assists. “That’s all you do at this point. I’m just doing whatever I can do to help my team win basketball games. No matter how many points I have I really don’t care about that stuff. I’m just trying to win.”
Walker has averaged 21.1 points and shot 45.9 percent at home, compared to 12.4 points and 35.8 percent on the road. He went 4 of 11 from the field and finished with 12 points in a 106-73 loss at Los Angeles on Jan. 31 in these teams’ last meeting.
Updated December 18, 2012