MANILA, Philippines – The Los Angeles Lakers nearly wasted all of a double-digit lead, but Kobe Bryant came up big down the stretch as he fired the Lakers to a 91-87 victory over the visiting New Jersey Nets.
The Nets had rallied back from a 17-point deficit thanks to point guard Deron Williams, who scored 20 points, including a long three-pointer with 1:29 to go that tied the game at 86-all.
After Bryant put the Lakers back on top with a jumper, Gerald Wallace once again cut into the lead by making one of two free throws.
With the Nets knocking on the door, Bryant sealed the victory when he drained a three-pointer that rattled through nearly every part of the rim before falling through with six seconds left in the game.
"It was just one of those shots, I guess," Bryant told NBA.com. "The basketball gods were with us."
"He's been making shots like that his whole career so it was no surprise," Williams said of Bryant’s shot.
Bryant finished with 24 points and seven rebounds, while Pau Gasol had a double-double with 22 points and 12 boards.
The Lakers were playing without All-Star center Andrew Bynum, who sprained an ankle in their previous game.
But Gasol and Bryant picked up the scoring slack, as they scored the Lakers first eight points in the game. Point guard Ramon Sessions also added to the scoring as he tallied 19 points on top of 11 assists and six rebounds.
Despite the loss, Nets head coach Avery Johnson commended his team for getting back in the game.
"We didn't have a good first quarter, but look at the defense we played in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. Normally, those balls like (Bryant's) will bounce out. Unfortunately for us, it bounced in," he said.
Even without Bynum, the Lakers outrebounded the Nets 50-38. Kris Humphries had 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Nets, while Wallace also scored 19 markers.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns survived a monster game from DeMarcus Cousins and defeated the Sacramento Kings, 109-100.
Cousins had a career-high 41 points to go along with 12 rebounds, but Steve Nash countered with another vintage performance to lead the Suns.
Nash had 18 points, 12 assists and six rebounds and five other Phoenix players scored in double figures.
"I believe tonight it was five against one. It was all five of us trying to guard Steve Nash," Cousins said. "All the credit to Steve. He's an incredible player."
The Kings were able to keep the game close for most of the night thanks in part to Cousins' strong performance.
But midway through the fourth period, Cousins committed an offensive foul that sparked an 8-2 Phoenix run, putting the Suns up 101-90. The Kings would not threaten again.
" wouldn't call it a good win, but it was one we needed," said the Suns' Jared Dudley.
Phoenix's record now stands at 27-26, just 1.5 games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.