Kobe Bryant is back to being the closer.
Two days after getting benched late in a home loss to Memphis, Bryant made a pair of jumpers in the final 64 seconds, finishing with 30 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past the short-handed Golden State Warriors, 104-101 on Tuesday night.
Bryant missed his first two shots in the final period before twice rising over a pair of defenders for difficult fall-away jumpers from the corner. The first tied the game and the second put the Lakers ahead by two - and for good - with 32 seconds remaining.
Former Warriors forward Matt Barnes had 28 points and 10 rebounds, and Pau Gasol added 19 points and 17 rebounds to give Los Angeles its third win in four games.
David Lee had 23 points and nine rebounds, and rookie Klay Thompson scored 20 points for the Warriors, who have lost seven of nine. Missing three injured starters, Golden State still had to feel good about its effort.
As usual, just not as good as Bryant's finish.
Lakerland was still buzzing earlier in the day over a curious coaching move the last time out.
As Los Angeles attempted to make a final push in Sunday's 102-96 loss to the Grizzlies, Bryant sat on the bench for nearly four minutes, a rare occurrence for one of the NBA's most dangerous closers. Bryant didn't appear to agree with the move in the locker room after the game but said he supports Mike Brown's decision.
The two seem to be on good terms publicly. Brown laughed off questions about the ordeal before the game and said he wasn't surprised at all by the reactions from Lakers fans or media, surmising that ''the reality is anything that happens with Kobe is a big deal.''
Bryant sat out the first 5:21 of the fourth quarter against Golden State, and the home team closed the gap during that time in furious fashion. Brandon Rush brought the Warriors within a basket three different times - a dunk, three-point play and a 3-pointer - and Lee's 17-footer trimmed Los Angeles' lead to 91-90 with Bryant back.
The Warriors went ahead 97-95 on Lee's hook shot before Bryant bounced back.
The Lakers leader took the ball in the post and, as Rush and Thompson closed, drifted to the corner and floated a tying shot. Thompson had his layup blocked off his leg and out of bounds by Metta World Peace, setting the stage for another Bryant highlight.
Los Angeles ran the same play again and Bryant delivered, hitting a 19-footer to lift Los Angeles ahead. Rush missed a running layup on the other end, and the Lakers cruised to victory the rest of the way on free throws.
Bryant finished 9 for 24 and added five assists and five rebounds. Most of all, he made sure the Lakers avoided another loss.
Golden State had almost as many players on the injury report as the starting lineup.
Point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) missed his ninth straight game and, along with new big man Andrew Bogut (fractured left ankle), is unlikely to play again this season. Andris Biedrins (strained right groin) also wasn't in uniform and Nate Robinson (strained right hamstring) sat out.
The wounded Warriors somehow managed to give the Lakers some competition behind their youngsters.
Three rookies - Thompson, Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler - started in their place, finding ways to keep Golden State close. Los Angeles led 55-48 at halftime and 79-72 entering the fourth.
NOTES: Thompson's dad, Mychal, drafted No. 1 overall by Portland in 1978, is an analyst on the Lakers radio broadcast and called the game courtside. ... Golden State hosts New Orleans on Wednesday night, while the Lakers get a day off before hosting Oklahoma City on Thursday night in a pivotal Western Conference matchup. ... Andrew Bynum shot a 3-pointer in the third quarter with about 16 seconds left on the shot clock, and he was taken out by Brown a few moments later.