CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is choosy with the games he travels to see from his Florida home. But he wasn't going to miss Saturday's home game against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although the two men talk often, it's rare to see the two basketball luminaries in the same building. And with Bryant's career winding down, you wonder how many more times it will happen in the future.
Quite a stage, right?
Coming off injury, Bryant might not be able to do all of the things he's capable of yet, but he still has a flair for the dramatic. The 35-year-old guard rallied the Lakers from a six-point deficit in the final minutes and hit what proved to be the winning free throws with 37.1 seconds remaining in an 88-85 win. He finished with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The Lakers (11-12) had lost three straight games since Bryant's return from Achilles tendon surgery, which was mostly a coincidence, but also becoming something of a concern as L.A. dropped further below .500.
A transition period was fine. A rut was not.
"We lost a little bit of our swagger," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. "We have to get back to play a little harder and in the sense of a little more urgency. We take plays off and we're not good enough to do that."
Saturday night, they were just good enough.
How it happened: Bryant hit two free throws with 37.1 seconds left to give the Lakers an 86-85 lead, and Pau Gasol sealed the win with two good defensive efforts on Al Jefferson and two free throws of his own with 6.2 seconds left.
The Lakers and Bobcats arm-wrestled their way through the first three quarters, both playing like teams who had to travel to Charlotte for the second night of a back-to-back. The Bobcats made a run midway through the fourth quarter and built the lead up to six points before the Lakers rallied in the final three minutes to pull out the win.
What it means: The Lakers seemed more comfortable with Bryant running the point Saturday than they did Friday night in Oklahoma City but are still clearly trying to regain the swagger they'd built up when they won six of eight games before Bryant's return.
Hits: After being deferential Friday night in Oklahoma City, Bryant came out of the gates firing. Bryant was just 2-for-6 from the field against the Thunder. He eclipsed that in the first quarter alone Saturday night, scoring eight points in nine minutes and hitting three of his first four shots. He finished with 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting and proved he could play in back-to-backs in just his first week back from Achilles tendon surgery.
Misses: The Lakers' depth has been a strength this year, but not so much Saturday night. It's hard to say whether the bench's poor 6-for-25 shooting was a result of heavy legs and extended minutes on the second night of a back-to-back or just poor shooting. But the Lakers were fortunate to pull this one out with such limited production from their bench. The unit of Xavier Henry, Shawne Williams, Nick Young and Robert Sacre combined for just 26 points.
Stat of the game: The Lakers have played at the third-highest pace all year, but, man, this was a slow game. The Lakers had just two fast-break points on the night.
Up next: The Lakers have Sunday off and are scheduled to watch a movie together at a theater in Atlanta. They'll face the Hawks on Monday night and the Grizzlies on Tuesday in Memphis.