When the Lakers' recent losing streak grew to three games after Kobe Bryant's shooting fell short in San Antonio against the Spurs, Bryant took the blame and said, "It's my responsibility to make 'em."
On Friday night, Bryant went back to living up to his responsibility.
After the Philadelphia 76ers clawed back from a 14-point deficit and tied the score with 93 seconds remaining, Bryant took charge and sank a 12-foot fadeaway jump shot to put the Lakers back in front by two points.
Bryant then was fouled with 1.9 seconds left and made two free throws to put the finishing touches on the Lakers' 102-98 win at Staples Center, giving the Lakers their second consecutive win after three consecutive defeats.
"The ball goes in my hands, and I have to make plays," Bryant said.
Bryant scored a game-high 33 points, which included 10 points in the final quarter and a driving dunk in the third quarter.
But it was his last four points that mattered most after the Lakers, who seemingly had the game in control through three quarters, let the pesky 76ers charge back.
"He's one of the best, if not the best, player as far as closing out games," Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who scored 20 points and collected eight rebounds, said of Bryant. "We trust that he can deliver."
In looking at Philadelphia's late charge, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said his team "made too many mistakes … and they capitalized on them."
Bryant said that, down the stretch, the Lakers were hurt by key outside baskets by Philadelphia, especially three-point shots by Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams.
"For the most part we did the right things," Bryant said. "We rotated well, we closed out the shooters, ran them off the line." But the 76ers nonetheless "made shots, they made those big threes and that kind of kept them in the game. We were able to weather that storm."
And as the Lakers enter 2011 trying to put their December troubles behind them in search of their third consecutive NBA title, Bryant remained confident.
"We're doing well," he said. "We can do a lot better, obviously, and we will."