That's why it was both amusing and unsettling when Bryant made his first field goal with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter to cut the Hornets' lead to 75-67. Bryant caught a pass from Pau Gasol from the left elbow, nailed a 17-foot jumper and prompted everyone at Staples Center to go berserk as if the Black Mamba had never made a shot in his life. Converting a contested layup that reduced the Hornets' lead to 77-69 with 6:24 left created a similar reaction, while Bryant pumped his fist with delight. And there was sure a sense of irony when "M-V-P" chants reigned over Staples Center as he hit one of two free throws to slice the gap to 79-76 with 4:24 left.
"I've seen a lot of people run away from those type of situations," Bryant said, and sure, feel free to say LeBron James. "When the ball is not going and you're 0 of 15, it's a steep hill."
What remains a steeper hill involves when, or if, Bryant will rest. The Lakers play five games next week, including two sets of back-to-back games. The Lakers then have nine more games in 18 days, including one set of back-to-back games. Their only stretch of multiple days off is between their April 22 game against Oklahoma City and their season finale against Sacramento on April 26.