Dwight Howard scored 24 points, Kobe Bryant had 14 points and 11 assists in another pass-first performance, and the Los Angeles Lakers hung on to beat the New Orleans Hornets 111-106 Tuesday night for their first three-game winning streak in five weeks.
Earl Clark had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, whose 18-point lead with 5½ minutes to play dwindled to 102-101 with 2 minutes left before Clark and Steve Nash hit big shots to clinch Los Angeles' ninth straight win over New Orleans.
Eric Gordon scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half for the Hornets, who were all but finished before making a 16-2 run in an electric 2½-minute stretch. New Orleans got within one point on Greivis Vasquez's running jumper, but Clark hit an inside layup and Nash buried a 3-pointer with 1:21 to play.
Steve Nash had 12 points and five assists, while Antawn Jamison scored 16 points. Four-time All-Star Pau Gasol had seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists as a reserve in the Lakers' final home game before a seven-game trip, their longest of the season, while the Grammy Awards take over Staples Center.
Ryan Anderson scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets, who had won eight of 12, including an impressive victory in Memphis two nights earlier at the start of their five-game trip. Anderson, Vasquez and Robin Lopez led the impressive late rally that just fell short, with Lopez finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Rookie Anthony Davis had 18 points for the Hornets, who haven't beaten the Lakers at Staples Center since January 2009.
Steve Blake had two points and four assists in his first appearance for the Lakers since Nov. 11.
Until the frantic finish that nearly scrambled three solid quarters by the Lakers, Bryant reached new heights in his revamped role as Los Angeles' playmaker, racking up 10 assists in three straight games for just the fifth time in his career and the first time in four years. The fifth-leading scorer in NBA history has 39 assists in the Lakers' last three games, the biggest three-game total of his 17-season career.
Bryant also had eight rebounds, falling just short of a triple-double for the third straight game.
Two days after beating Oklahoma City in impressive fashion, the Lakers got right back to their improved form in the first half, holding the Hornets scoreless for 7:41 spanning the first two quarters with a 17-0 run. New Orleans helped out by missing multiple open shots, but Los Angeles used superior ball movement and an alert offensive game from Howard, who even made five of his six free throws in the first half — not bad for a 49.5-percent shooter at the line.
Los Angeles made another 15-2 run short before the first half ended. Gordon kept the Hornets close with five 3-pointers but his teammates were a combined 10 for 36 from the field.
Blake had missed the Lakers' past 37 games with an abdominal injury that required surgery and resulting groin problems, but coach Mike D'Antoni immediately put the veteran point guard back in his rotation as Nash's backup. D'Antoni had coveted Blake's services in his previous NBA stops in Phoenix and New York, periodically trying to acquire the guard to run his point guard-intensive offense.
NOTES: The Hornets' brutal road trip began in Tennessee and will eventually take them to Minnesota for their fourth game in five nights on Saturday. They'll be at Utah on Wednesday night. ... The Lakers missed four free throws in less than 1 second of clock time midway through the third quarter. After Howard missed two, Gasol grabbed the rebound and got fouled without the clock moving — but Gasol then missed two as well. Clark collected that rebound, but threw it past Bryant for a backcourt violation. ... Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka watched the game from courtside with her boyfriend, LMFAO's Redfoo.