Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers really think they’re on to something, even if it’s nothing revolutionary. They’re gaining confidence in their newfound attitude and approach with each victory they’re producing.

Not even a fantastic fourth-quarter rally by the New Orleans Hornets could shake Kobe’s conviction that the Lakers have finally figured out a few things about their puzzling season.

Dwight Howard scored 24 points, Bryant had 14 points and 11 assists in another pass-first performance, and the Lakers hung on to beat New Orleans 111-106 Tuesday night for their first three-game winning streak in five weeks.

Earl Clark had 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers (20-25), who jumped to an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter with their third straight game of patient passing and hard-nosed defense quarterbacked by Bryant. The fifth-leading scorer in NBA history has warmly embraced his new role as a playmaker - no surprise for somebody whose first basketball muse was Magic Johnson.

”It’s working pretty well,” said Bryant, whose 39 assists in the Lakers’ last three games are the biggest three-game total of his 17-season career. ”It’s very easy for me to look over the defense and know where they’re coming from, just kind of line my guys up in the right way and just pick them apart.” …

Eric Gordon scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half for the Hornets, who got within one point on Greivis Vasquez’s running jumper.

Ryan Anderson scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets, who had won eight of 12, including an impressive victory in Memphis two nights earlier at the start of their five-game trip. Anderson, Vasquez and Robin Lopez led the impressive late rally that just fell short, with Lopez finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds.

– Reported by Greg Beacham of the Associated Press