(Reuters) - The Los Angeles Lakers continued to build on their recent momentum with a 111-106 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday, as the home team staved off a late rally to register a third consecutive victory.
Kobe Bryant dished out 11 assists and Dwight Howard scored 24 points as Los Angeles, comfortably in control at 98-80 midway through the fourth quarter, almost blew the win when the Hornets put together a 16-2 run in the closing stages.
New Orleans pulled to within 102-101 in the final two minutes before Bryant found Earl Clark for a score and Steve Nash calmly sank a three-pointer to open up some breathing room.
After a well-publicized team meeting to address the group’s struggles last week, Los Angeles (20-25) appear to have found a new lease of life.
Flourishing in his new role as lead facilitator, Bryant has racked up 39 assists during the winning streak while Pau Gasol is thriving as a reserve.
“People forget Magic (Johnson) was my first idol,” Bryant told reporters after finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds to flirt with a triple-double.
“I tried to do everything he could do and then I realized my growth spurt stopped at 6ft-5in.”
Eric Gordon top-scored for the Hornets (15-30) with 25 points while Greivis Vasquez added 15 points and 15 assists as the visitors lost for the third time in their last four games.
Top overall pick Anthony Davis added 18 points but could not stop New Orleans from losing their ninth game in a row against the Lakers.
Los Angeles continued to get points from many sources with Clark tallying 20 to go with his 12 rebounds, while the bench added 38 points.
“Our second group played really well,” Lakers coach Mike D‘Antoni said. “That’s something that’s going to be very important going forward.”
Despite enjoying the optimism of a three-game winning streak, the new-look Lakers will be thoroughly tested on a seven-game road trip starting in Phoenix on Wednesday.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien