Los Angeles, CA – Kobe Bryant rattled in the game-sealing three-pointer with 6.8 seconds left in regulation, as the Lakers survived the Nets' late rally and pulled out a 91-87 win at Staples Center.
Bryant finished with 24 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 71 seconds to play and a three-pointer that bounced off the rim no less than five times in the closing seconds.
Los Angeles won its third straight game despite being without center Andrew Bynum, who was sidelined due to an ankle injury. Pau Gasol stepped up with 22 points and 12 rebounds in Bynum's absence, while Ramon Sessions added 19 points and 11 assists for the Pacific Division leaders.
Deron Williams had 20 points for the Nets, who received 18 points and 15 rebounds from Kris Humphries but had their three-game winning streak snapped and dropped their eighth straight against LA.
Holding a double-digit lead in the fourth, the Lakers seemingly went on cruise control in anticipation of Wednesday's bout against the Clippers, who trail the division leaders by 1 1/2 games.
The Nets trailed by a dozen, 78-66 entering the fourth, but cut the deficit to 84-83 thanks to an 11-2 run that Gerald Wallace capped with a drive to the basket with just over two minutes remaining.
Metta World Peace scored at the other end, and Williams made a deep three- pointer to tie it at 86-all with 1:29 to play.
Bryant put the Lakers back on top on a turnaround jumper, and World Peace was called for his sixth foul as Wallace was driving the lane in the final minute.
Wallace missed the first free throw and made the second to keep New Jersey from tying things again, and an offensive rebound followed by a replay reversal of an out-of-bounds call gave the Lakers the ball with 10.8 seconds remaining.
With the shot clock winding down, Bryant fired from 26 feet out and got several generous bounces off the rim to seal the suddenly close decision.
"We like to make it interesting. When we get a double-digit lead we tend to relax or the other team doesn't want to be embarrassed," Lakers head coach Mike Brown said.
The Lakers shot 75 percent (15-of-20) from the field in the first quarter, which ended with Josh McRoberts hitting a 19-footer following an unsightly coast-to-coast dribbling display.
The buzzer-beater gave the Lakers a 32-23 lead, which was extended to 58-45 at the break behind a 10-point effort by Gasol in the second quarter.
"We have to get off to a better start," Nets head coach Avery Johnson said.
Despite being without Bynum, the Lakers held a 50-38 rebounding advantage and scored 10 more points in the paint (42-32)...Wallace finished with 19 points for New Jersey, which forced 16 turnovers.