Updated: December 19, 2012, 9:58 AM ET

1. Lakers Scratch And Claw Past Bobcats

By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- Problems during a slide always seem fatal.

While the Los Angeles Lakers were engulfed in their downward spiral during which they lost six of seven, they looked like a team both ill-prepared and uninspired.

To many, the issues seemed intractable. Skeptics insisted the Lakers could never overcome Mike D'Antoni's supposed allergy to defense, and a lack of depth that demands significant minutes from marginal players -- a shortcoming the Thunder, Spurs, Clippers and Grizzlies don't have to worry about.

Should a precarious 101-100 win on Tuesday night at Staples Center over the Charlotte Bobcats -- one that required a 32-8 run to come back from an 18-point second-half deficit -- quell those concerns? Do you salute the resilience, even if the rally came against a Charlotte team that came into the game as losers of its last 10 games? Or is it unseemly to take comfort in a squeaker over a young, reeling team that hasn't won since Thanksgiving weekend?

"There's no need to be disappointed," Dwight Howard said. "This is three games in a row."

Kobe Bryant
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe's 30 points helped L.A. win a third straight.

Setting down Washington, Philadelphia and Charlotte in order isn't exactly a sweep of the Texas Trio of yore, and we've hardly witnessed wholesale reform on the defensive end -- yielding 100 points in 95 possessions to the 25th-ranked offense in the league doesn't impress.

But the Lakers got key stops during their spurt, as they applied basic defensive principles that were entirely absent during the slump -- and for much of Tuesday night before the great awakening.

"The last three games our energy has been there," said Kobe Bryant, who led all scorers with 30 points. "We got six stops [at the start of the fourth quarter] and we got the [deficit] down by a big margin. We finally got our act together and started playing some defense."

So while the worm hasn't completely turned in Los Angeles, it's starting to wiggle through the California soil.

While the losses were piling up for the Lakers, all the blemishes seemed terminal to hardened pessimists -- the transition defense (29th in points allowed), coughing up the ball (last in turnover rate), giving up 3-pointers (24th in opponents' 3-pointers made) and Pau Gasol's discomfort in D'Antoni's system prior to the big man's injury, among other assorted deficiencies.

For all the anxiety over Gasol's adaptability in D'Antoni's offense, the Lakers rank fifth in offensive efficiency. On Tuesday night, Gasol took the floor for the first time in nine games.

He put up modest scoring numbers in 29 minutes -- 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting from the field -- but appeared more comfortable in D'Antoni's scheme. This was especially true when he was the sole big man on the floor. With Howard on the bench, Gasol logged a plus-18. While the two were out there together, Gasol was a minus-22.

"I think it's good that we spend some time together on the court and also apart so I can play a little more center and closer to the basket," Gasol said. " I always like to combine [playing power forward and center], but mostly I like to be inside and operate from there because I still feel like I'm one of the best players in the post in the league with my skill set. I want to be able to utilize it."

D'Antoni's system is more amenable to a single big surrounded by four perimeter players, one reason the Lakers coach has recently slid Metta World Peace to the power forward slot, allowing Howard and Gasol to operate as the lone big man. On Tuesday night, World Peace came off the bench in that capacity.

"For us to have a different team, a different look, Metta has to play the 4," D'Antoni said. "That's the whole process. And I think Metta going forward, as soon as he gets comfortable with the 4 role, he will be very productive and our team will be very productive. You have got Dwight, you have a 7-footer in there so we can go small and I just think it puts Jodie Meeks out there. It puts Kobe more room to operate. Once we get [Steve] Nash back, it will be the pick-and-rolls that are able to operate."

D'Antoni can tolerate a few posts sets, as long as the ball pops quickly if the offense begins to stagnate, something the Lakers did with success on Tuesday night. Through all the turmoil, D'Antoni has maintained an unwavering devotion to his plan. He has readily acknowledged that the team has underachieved since he took over, but he also conveys great conviction that these issues are entirely correctable.

"I'm trying to figure out what's the best way to play the team," D'Antoni said. "We will keep looking at film, keep revisiting."

A protracted discussion of systems has reigned in Los Angeles since Mike Brown and Eddie Jordan instituted the Princeton Offense what seems like eons ago. D'Antoni has now instituted his scheme, though it's still a work in process.

One system has endured for the Lakers, and that's Bryant's solo performance during closing time. With the game tied 97-97 inside of 90 seconds, the Lakers managed three possessions.

On each of the trips, only Bryant touched the ball. He drained two of his three shot attempts, enough to lift the Lakers to a one-point victory.

"It's about winning," Bryant said. "Are you doing what you need to do to win the game? The game that's in front of you. It's not about how many times you shoot the ball, or how many touches you get. You're just kidding yourself."

Kevin Arnovitz is an NBA writer and editor for ESPN.com. Follow him @kevinarnovitz.

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