Bryant scored 11 of his 31 points in the final 12 minutes on 5-of-5 shooting as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 99-89, and grabbed a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
"It felt good," Bryant said of the victory, which gave the Lakers the home-court advantage they had lost in an 88-85 setback in Game Two. "We had to focus. There were a lot of reports that we were going to lose because of the emotion. We had to center ourselves and play every possession like it was our last."
Bryant made a hanging jumper in the paint to make it 81-78, and after Duncan sank a layup, Bryant hit a spectacular alley-oop finger roll off a feed from Rick Fox to give the Lakers an 83-80 edge with 4:52 remaining. The Spurs got no closer thereafter.
"This game was like the last two games, very competitive," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We went at each other hard. Down the stretch. We couldn't get it to go in the hole. The Lakers executed and (Shaquille O'Neal) and Kobe made big shots and they got them over the hump. We just couldn't get it down."
O'Neal added 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who extended their NBA postseason record road winning streak to 10 games.
O'Neal's lack of aggression had been criticized by Lakers coach Phil Jackson after the 7-1, 350-pounder had 19 points and just seven rebounds in Game Two.
Powered by O'Neal, the Lakers dominated the Spurs inside, outscoring them in the paint, 56-36, and holding a 48-34 rebounding advantage.
Duncan, who was presented the league's Most Valuable Player trophy before the game, had 28 points and 12 rebounds but made just 9-of-26 shots.
The Spurs shot 41 percent (32-of-79) while the Lakers finished at 49 percent (41-of-84).
"They defended very well," Duncan said. "I missed a couple of easy ones. Those are the ones that kind of turn your game around."
Spurs rookie Tony Parker chipped in 24 points, but he was held to only four after halftime.
"I think that in the first I was getting a lot of good looks at the basket because I was getting a lot of pick-and-rolls," Parker said. "In the second half we changed things up to get Timmy and David some looks. We really wanted to get something inside in the second."
Robinson, who had missed the Spurs' last six playoff games with an aggravated disc in his lower back, managed just six points and seven rebounds. He had a fourth quarter to forget, missing a dunk, shooting an airball on a baseline jumper and missing a pair of free throws with his team trailing 88-82 with 2:28 remaining.
"It was his first game back," Parker said. "You really can't expect that much from somebody when they haven't played in this long. It was good to have him back, but we all know that it will take some time for him to be the same."
"It was mostly his wind," Popovich said. "He looked rusty, but he did a great job with the minutes he did give us. He did get winded, but I'm proud that he gave it that kind of shot. He did the best job he could and Shaq did a good job."
After coming away with the rebound on the second missed free throw, Bryant fed Robert Horry for a dunk and, after a successful defensive stand, Bryant made another jumper in the paint to give the Lakers a 92-82 advantage with 1:40 left.
"I thought it was an extremely well-played game in the first half," Jackson said. "We rode our momentum into the fourth quarter and played good defense. We stayed with what was working. Kobe had a great game, so I didn't take him out this game. He played the full 48 minutes."
"I thought down the stretch he hit some big ones for them," Duncan said of Bryant. "On team defense we need to do a better job of rotating over and helping him once he gets into the air. Kobe is tough. He makes shots. We just need to do a better job defensively of getting to him."
Parker had 12 points in the first 12 minutes as the Spurs took a 28-24 lead. Bryant countered with 10 in the second quarter to guide the Lakers to a 53-52 edge.
"In the first half it was important we take the swell of the emotion out (of the crowd)," Jackson said. "They had the lead and we stuck with them."
O'Neal, who only had 10 points at the break and appeared to be bothered by the left ankle sprain he suffered in Game Two, made his presence felt in the paint in the third quarter, scoring 12 points as Los Angeles entered the final period with a 74-71 advantage.
Fox made 1-of-2 free throws and a turnaround jumper to begin the fourth quarter before the Spurs scored the next seven points to take the lead for the final time.
Neither team shot well from the outside. The Lakers made just 3-of-12 shots from 3-point range while the Spurs went 4-of-17 from the arc.
"We had a good number of wide-open shots, they just didn't go down," Popovich said. "They played good defense and did everything they needed to do."
The Lakers' victory was their sixth in their last seven playoff games against the Spurs and 21st in 23 postseason contests since losing Game Six of the 2000 Western Conference finals to Portland. Los Angeles won Game Seven of that series en route to the NBA championship, then went 15-1 while winning a second straight title in 2001. The Lakers are 5-1 this postseason in their quest for a three-peat.
"I love playing here with 35,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs," Bryant said. "When you make a run and you or your teammate hits one that quiets the fans, it feels great."
"Kobe is a big-time player in this league and tonight he showed that," said Horry, who had nine points. "I don't think any of the shots he got tonight were easy. They were all nines on a scale of 10. But he knows that playing like that, being aggressive, makes it easier on Shaq, the way he is feeling right now, and all of us really."