By Jahmal Corner
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The inner-city battle for Los Angeles added another feisty chapter as the Lakers battled to a 96-91 win over the Clippers on Wednesday to reassume their top billing status.
In a duel that featured a number of technical fouls and minor skirmishes, Kobe Bryant started passively but scored 12 of his 24 points in the pivotal fourth quarter to lead the Lakers to victory.
Pau Gasol had 23 points and 10 rebounds and the Lakers (11-8) ended their three-game losing streak with a satisfying victory that ended with Bryant and Gasol exchanging heated words with Clippers leader Chris Paul.
The Lakers trailed by a slim margin for much of the game but Bryant made a three-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to give the home team their first lead since the opening minute, and they held on to spoil the return of Paul.
Paul, whose off-season trade to the Clippers turned them into a legitimate rival of the Lakers, looked rusty after missing five games with a hamstring injury and finished with four points and 12 assists.
He was originally injured in a Clippers' victory over the Lakers on January 14 which signaled their arrival as peers.
This time, the Clippers (9-6) fell back despite leading by nine early in the third and getting 26 points and nine rebounds from Blake Griffin.
(Editing by John O'Brien)