Kobe Bryant is working Magic with his assists. (Reed Saxon / AP)

Could the solution to the Los Angeles Lakers’ struggles this season be as simple as having No. 24 play more like No. 32?

For the second game in a row, Kobe Bryant had 14 assists (along with 21 points and nine rebounds) as the Lakers came up with a big, big win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

“It feels good to finally beat a team that’s worth a [expletive],” he said (via USA Today) after the 105-96 victory.

Wasn’t Steve Nash supposed to play the Magic Johnson role of dishing passes to teammates? Never mind. It worked and, at this point in the season, the Lakers will take that, although ESPN statisticians noted that this was only the fourth time in 17 years that Bryant had more assists that field-goal attempts in 30 minutes or more. And now he’s done it twice. He didn’t even mind the joke about “Kobe Johnson” on Twitter.

“I think he likes [this role],” Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think he’s happy as hell.”

Maybe so. But he came within one rebound of a triple-double in each of the last two games, too. In his 17th season, can he continue to keep up this leadership-at-any-cost pace? The Lakers face another road trip, starting Tuesday night in New Orleans, home of Super Bowl XLVII. Soon enough, it will be apparent whether they’ve turned the corner, whether all the drama with Dwight Howard in last week’s air-clearing team meeting has passed.

“I just looked down [at the stat sheet] and we’re 19-25 and just upset my stomach,” D’Antoni said (via ESPN Los Angeles). “I’m happy about how we’re playing right now, but like I said we got a big road trip coming up. … That will be the telling tell. If we can continue with this energy and this type of playing then, yes, I’ll be real excited.”

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