Bryant scored six of his 26 points in overtime and the Lakers beat the Washington Wizards 126-120 Sunday night to snap a two-game losing skid and move within a game of the Western Conference lead.
"We're doing this without two starters," Bryant said. "It's been an adjustment period. I think guys have adjusted well. With all the injuries, we're still one game behind the top seed in the Western Conference. You got to like our spot."
Sasha Vujacic hit six 3-pointers while scoring 20 points, Luke Walton added 19, Vladimir Radmanovic 18 and Lamar Odom had 10 points and 13 rebounds as the Lakers notched their 50th victory for the 29th time in franchise history.
"We feel like we are going to have to win 57 or something like that if we want to finish at the top of this heap," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Rookie Nick Young led the Wizards with a career-high 27 points playing in his hometown and DeShawn Stevenson matched him, including a career-high eight 3-pointers. Caron Butler had 17 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his third career triple-double, and Antawn Jamison added 17.
"It was good to see Mom, Dad, family and friends," said Young, who starred at Southern California. "That kind of got me going a little bit. It felt like SC days out there."
For the first time since the 3-point line was instituted before the 1979-80 season, both teams shot better than 50 percent from 3-point range and under 50 percent from the floor.
"We did everything we wanted to do. We stopped penetration, closed out to the shooters, got a hand in their face and they shot 56 percent from 3s. You kind of got to live with that," Bryant said. "Teams that go 17-for-30 on contested 3-point shots, I mean there were a couple that were uncontested, but for the most part we had hands on their faces, hands on their arms and they were knocking them down."
Trailing by a point with a minute left in overtime, the Lakers went to Bryant, who two days ago scored 53 in a 114-111 loss to Memphis.
He hit three consecutive free throws to put them ahead for good after the Lakers blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Wizards were scoreless over the final 1:18.
Against the Grizzlies, Bryant had 34 at halftime; this time he had five at the break. He took 37 of the Lakers' 104 shots against the Grizzlies; he had 24 of their 87 Sunday. He had one assist Friday and 13 Sunday.
The Wizards outscored the Lakers 7-3 to open overtime, capped by Stevenson's driving reverse layup for a 118-114 lead.
"It's just funny that a defensive guard and a rookie guard makes the big scoring plays and our veterans were struggling a little bit," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said.
Derek Fisher, who finished with 17 points, hit a 3-pointer to draw the Lakers within one. Butler missed, grabbed the rebound and fed Young on the wing, who scored for a 120-117 lead.
Fisher stepped away from a flying Young in the right corner and scored, again drawing the Lakers within one with 1:02 left. Pressured on a drive under the basket that went nowhere, Young passed the ball out of bounds. Stevenson fouled Bryant, who made both, giving the Lakers their first lead, 121-120, since early in overtime.
Young missed a jumper with 18 seconds left and Jamison was forced to foul Bryant, who made the first accompanied by "MVP!" chants. He missed the second, but Vujacic grabbed the rebound, got fouled and made both with 10 seconds left.
Butler missed a 3-pointer with five seconds to go and Walton's fastbreak dunk ended the game.
"It was a heartbreaker," Young said. "It would have been good to come home and get a win. But that's Kobe and they are a great team. Derek Fisher hit some big shots."
Bryant was fouled by Stevenson while shooting and sank both for a 111-108 lead with 33 seconds to go in regulation. After a timeout, Butler's 3-pointer from left of the key tied the game at 111 with 10 seconds left.
Bryant dribbled the ball the length of the court before dishing to Fisher, who missed the potential winning 3-pointer from the right corner as regulation expired.
- Wizards starting guard Antonio Daniels sprained his left wrist after playing four minutes and did not return, clearing the way for Young's big night.
- Lakers C Pau Gasol missed his ninth game because of a sprained left ankle. He scrimmaged briefly Saturday and worked out Sunday. "He couldn't push off, take the kinds of shots he wanted to take, but he was out there and it was good," Jackson said about the scrimmage. "He was no worse for wear because of it."
- The Wizards are 8-10 in the first game of back-to-back sets. They visit Utah on Monday night.
- Los Angeles Galaxy star David Beckham sat courtside, with his personal security guard stationed nearby. He met Bryant for the first time afterward. "We talked about the game tonight," Bryant said. "They had a tough first game, so I'm sure they're looking to bounce back. I support him 100 percent."