The Lakers returned from an eight-game trip, pushing through poor weather in too many states to count, but nearly got snowed under by the Charlotte Bobcats.
Kobe Bryant didn't shoot or score very much and the Lakers barely beat the undermanned and generally underwhelming Bobcats, 99-97, Wednesday at Staples Center.
Phil Jackson passed Pat Riley for most coaching victories in Lakers history, now standing at 534, but the Lakers were anything but sharp after 13 days on the road.
Then again, these are the Bobcats, who have never made the playoffs in their six-year existence and somehow won six of their last seven games against the Lakers. In fact, the Lakers hadn't beaten the Bobcats at Staples Center since December 2005, and that was a tight one, 99-98.
So the Lakers exhaled, finally, after a boost from Andrew Bynum (17 points, 14 rebounds) and their reserves help offset an off night by Bryant, who had five points and was slowed after aggravating a sore left ankle.
Bryant, after facing some second-guessing from teammates after shooting early and often two days earlier in Memphis, made only two of 12 shots against Charlotte.
He left the game briefly in the final minute of the second quarter after Lamar Odom stepped on his left ankle while sliding his feet defensively near the free-throw line.
Bryant returned to start the third quarter and wasn't quite himself. He couldn't get clear of Bobcats guard Stephen Jackson at the end of the third quarter, failing to get off a shot in the final seconds, a rarity for him.
"He couldn't get off the ground," Phil Jackson said. "He couldn't get any push off of that ankle."
It was easily a season-low for the All-Star.
"It's just stiff and tight," said Bryant, who initially hurt the ankle after colliding with Philadelphia 76ers forward Elton Brand last Friday. "It just made it worse."
The Lakers (38-12) needed help from their reserves, and got it, Odom scoring 19 points and Shannon Brown adding 10 points and six assists. Jordan Farmar had nine points and a key late-game steal.
The Bobcats (24-24) wouldn't go away, Jackson scoring 30 points and inbounding the ball from the side with 9.7 seconds to play, the Bobcats down, 97-94.
However, the inbounds pass was deflected by Farmar, then Pau Gasol scooped up the ball and fed Farmar at the other end for a dunk.
The Lakers caught a break before the game began when Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace was sidelined because of a sore hamstring, taking 19.2 points and 11 rebounds out of the Bobcats' lineup.
The Lakers were the ones who looked like they took a night off. They were outrebounded, 45-38, and never were able to create comfortable distance from Charlotte.
Gasol had only 14 points and three rebounds. He made six of 13 shots, getting more attention in the post than his four-for-seven effort Monday against Memphis.
Bryant was honored before the game in a brief ceremony at midcourt after passing Jerry West two days earlier for the Lakers' all-time franchise scoring record.
West and Bryant hugged at midcourt and shared a few private words after West handed Bryant the game ball from Monday's game, where Bryant broke the mark on a dunk with 4:14 left in the third quarter. West had 25,192 points in his Lakers career.
It was Jackson's turn to break a franchise record Wednesday, even on a night where the Lakers weren't great.
"It's been a really good run," he said. "Having this opportunity to coach this team is always special. It's not really an individual record in my eyes."