Kwame Brown entered the game with a strained hamstring, had his nose bloodied on two occasions, and left to a standing ovation.
The Lakers, likewise, came into Sunday's game feeling a mild pull from the teams below them in the playoff chase, picked up a few more bumps and bruises along the way, and left with the satisfaction of moving ever closer to a playoff spot.
Kobe Bryant had 30 points and Brown continued his scoring spree with 17 points on seven-for-seven shooting in a 105-94 victory over the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center.
Afterward, as X-rays were taken on Smush Parker's jammed right thumb (they were negative) and Bryant talked about the back spasms he felt toward the end, the Lakers could take a brief timeout from injuries and idiosyncrasies to see the shifting playoff landscape. They are now two games ahead of eighth-place Sacramento and four ahead of the fading Hornets in the Western Conference.
They have 10 games left in the regular season, seven at home, including an especially important one Thursday against San Antonio.
Bryant, who made 10 of 19 shots before heading directly to the locker room with 38.2 seconds to play, said his back was slightly tweaked, an obvious byproduct of so many minutes and countless spills on the court.
"It was tightening up on me, a little spasm," he said. "I couldn't run, couldn't jump, couldn't make any movements."
He was then asked if he would play against the Spurs. He rolled his eyes, feigning disgust.
"C'mon, man," he said. "You already know that."
He could afford to crack a smile after the Lakers won a fourth consecutive game for the first time since Dec. 9, although there aren't too many healthy bodies left to suit up.
The Lakers lost Parker midway through the fourth quarter when he jammed his thumb into the chest of Hornet forward David West on a screen-and-roll. Parker, like Bryant, is expected to play Thursday.
Already without center Chris Mihm, the Lakers also went without rookie center Andrew Bynum, who sprained his right foot and ankle during a two-on-two game with other players at the team training facility after Saturday's practice. He might return Thursday.
It left more work for Brown, who came in with a balky hamstring and quickly picked up a bloody nose after getting elbowed accidentally by Brian Cook 1:44 into the game.
He left briefly, returned, and made all six of his shots in the first half.
"I don't know what I did to him," Brown said wryly. "I went and apologized to him. Hopefully he'll stop hitting me. I've been hit by him more than anyone in my life."
Brown's nose was banged again after he was fouled hard by P.J. Brown and crashed to the court in the fourth quarter. He made one of two free throws and left the game for good, the Lakers holding a 96-83 lead.
Booed last month at a home game after fumbling a pass from Lamar Odom, Brown left to generous recognition Sunday.
"This crowd has been great," Brown said, mindful of his days in front of unforgiving fans of the Washington Wizards. "They kill me one time [here], one play, that's no problem. It feels good to take advantage of the opportunities that I'm getting."
The Lakers have three days without games before playing the Spurs, during which time they can rest a bit and watch tape of their effort in the second half.
The first half wasn't a defensive beauty for the Lakers, but Odom's three-pointer at the buzzer gave them a 62-60 lead.
Then came the second half, with the Hornets scoring 15 in the third quarter and 19 in the fourth.
"I think it was my halftime talk to them," Laker Coach Phil Jackson said. "I told them that in their white uniforms, they looked like a bunch of elves and fairies out there just playing basketball. Instead of being tough and tenacious defensively, they were just sieves."
The Hornets, who have lost 11 of 12, were held to 32.5% shooting in the second half.