Once that was done, they needed to hang on for dear life.
The Lakers waged a furious third- and fourth-quarter rally, then staved off multiple game-winning attempts by the Bobcats to take a 101-100 win at Staples Center.
Down by as much as 18 in the second half, Los Angeles went on a 30-4 run midway through the third quarter and into the fourth quarter as the Bobcats crumbled under the weight of Kobe Bryant.
Bryant had 30 points -- including a crucial three-point play with 9:52 left in the game to give the Lakers the 87-84 lead, their first since late in the second quarter -- and added seven assists and six rebounds to lift the Lakers to their third straight win. He became the first 34-year old to pass the 30-point mark in seven straight games.
"We did a fantastic job," Bryant said of the Lakers' comeback. "(Lakers guard Darius Morris) is a fantastic defender, so is Jodie Meeks. We did a nice job defensively, got some steals and got the game back in hand. ... The last three games, our energy has been there."
Lakers reserves Metta World Peace and Meeks each had 17 points, with Meeks hitting five 3-pointers. Dwight Howard added 16 points and 18 rebounds as Los Angeles (12-14) used its size advantage to outlast the Bobcats (7-17).
The Lakers struggled against a Charlotte squad that lost its 12th straight game, but that was of little consequence to Howard, who was simply pleased to see his team coming together after a poor stretch.
"There's no need to be disappointed," Howard said. "This is three games in a row. We just have to keep it going. This game, we knew it would be tough coming back from the East Coast, but we did a good job of sticking with it."
Helping the Lakers in the post was the return of Pau Gasol, who contributed 10 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four blocks in his first start after missing eight games with tendinitis in both knees.
"It was great -- we had a little connection tonight," Howard said. "I know he was tired, but I was happy to see him out there. I'm just happy he's back, and hopefully the rest of the old guys will be back soon."
Second-year guard Kemba Walker had 28 points and seven assists to lead Charlotte, but his attempt with 5.9 seconds left was turned away by Howard. The Bobcats did not get another good look at the basket despite corralling two rebounds.
"I was definitely worried," Meeks said. "I was definitely holding my breath. ... We barely won, but we did, and that's what matters."
Ramon Sessions added 20 points and six assists off the bench for the Bobcats, but the rest of the Charlotte bench added only five points.
The Bobcats shot just 40 percent from the field but stayed in the game with impressive rebounding, as Byron Mullens (17 rebounds) and Bismack Biyombo (11 rebounds) battled in the post.
"There's a lot expected out of (Walker and Sessions), but that's the NBA," Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. "To be a guard in this thing is tough, but you got to marshal your energy night in and night out, and both of them can do it. They're very capable."
NOTES: Lakers guard Steve Nash could make his long-awaited debut as early as Saturday against the Golden State Warriors. Nash, sidelined by a non-displaced fracture in his left leg since Halloween, said he is still feeling pain but that he would practice this week. .. Before his return Tuesday night, Gasol last played Dec. 2 in a 113-103 home loss to the Orlando Magic. In his absence, the Lakers went 3-5 to fall to third place in the Western Conference's Pacific Division, 7 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers. Entering the game, Gasol was averaging a career-low 12.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. ... Los Angeles won the lone matchup between the teams last season, 106-73 on Jan. 31, 2012. The Lakers built a 24-point halftime lead as Bryant had all 24 of his points in the first half.