LOS ANGELES — Even when his legs are shot and his whole body is exhausted, Kobe Bryant can figure out ways to will the Los Angeles Lakers to victories.
It helps when the opponent struggles down the stretch as much as the Sacramento Kings did, though.
Bryant scored nine of his 32 points in the final 3:14, leading the Lakers' fourth-quarter comeback for a 98-95 victory over Sacramento on Tuesday night.
Carlos Boozer added 15 points as the Lakers snapped their three-game skid by rallying from a 12-point deficit in the second half. They grinded out a win with a fourth-quarter effort led by Bryant, who managed to conserve just enough energy to take the Lakers over the top.
"I'm hurting," Bryant said. "At halftime, I just lay down and try to put myself mentally in a place where I just block it out and come out and play."
After Bryant tied it at 92 with a breakaway dunk and a clutch 3-pointer, Jordan Hill's layup on a sharp pass from Bryant put the Lakers ahead 94-93 with 1:39 to play.
The Kings went back in front on a driving layup by Darren Collison, but Bryant hit two free throws for the lead with 34 seconds left. Rudy Gay and Nik Stauskas missed 3-pointers in the final 18 seconds for Sacramento, which has lost six of eight.
Nick Young had 12 points for the Lakers. They have won just three of 12 home games this season, but have won 12 of their last 13 at Staples Center against Sacramento.
"Sometimes you're going to have to win games that are ugly," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "We didn't exactly make shots on a consistent basis, but we made big shots when we had to."
Collison scored 26 points and Gay had 23 for the Kings, who went scoreless in a 4 1/2-minute stretch. Sacramento managed just 14 points on 5-for-17 shooting in the fourth quarter.
"This loss really, really stings," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "It's a bad loss — not because of who we played. I would never disrespect the Lakers. But for us to have the lead and play as well as we did at times, and then just give it all back and not have the poise to handle the adversity down the stretch, it's a tough loss."
Ben McLemore exceeded his season average with 13 points in the first half alone, pacing the Kings to a 55-46 lead. Bryant missed nine of his 13 shots in the first half.
The Kings took their biggest lead early in the third quarter before Bryant and Young keyed an 18-6 run to keep the Lakers in it.
Kings: This overnight jaunt south was Sacramento's only road game in an 11-game stretch of its schedule, smack between two five-game homestands. The Kings haven't left California since Nov. 28, and they won't have to leave again until Dec. 29. ... Collison missed his first five free throws before making his sixth.
Lakers: LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena watched the game from courtside 48 hours after winning his fifth MLS Cup championship. ... Carlos Boozer came off the bench for the second straight game after starting his previous 588 NBA games. ... Young completed a four-point play late in the first quarter.
STILL NO CUZ
The Kings are back to .500 after their seventh straight game without leading scorer and rebounder DeMarcus Cousins, who is out another week with viral meningitis. "I think he is the best rebounder in the game, so we definitely miss him," Collison said. "But we have other guys that can play pretty much the same way. So there's no excuses on our part. We have guys who can step up and fill that void."
KEEP THE BALL
The Lakers had a season-low five turnovers, and are among the NBA's most careful teams with the ball. Bryant committed three of those turnovers, but had the ball in his hands on nearly every possession — particularly while essentially playing point guard down the stretch.
Kings: Host Houston on Thursday.
Lakers: At San Antonio on Friday.