LOS ANGELES, Feb. 15 (Ticker) -- Now that Kobe Bryant is back, the Los Angeles Lakers have hope.

In his second game back from a sprained ankle and his first home game since suffering the injury Jan. 13, Bryant scored 40 points and had eight assists to lead the Lakers to a 102-95 victory over the Utah Jazz.

NBA TV highlights from
Bryant missed 14 games with the injury but returned for the finale of Los Angeles' 1-4 road trip, scoring 26 points in Sunday's 103-89 loss at Cleveland.

"Yeah, I was gone for a while," Bryant said. "So I needed a game under my belt to get my legs back and get my rhythm back. It's back."

The All-Star guard teamed with Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins to erase a big second-half deficit against the Jazz.

"It was a big win for us," Bryant said. "We've been working on a lot of things in practice and playing a team like Utah is a good test for us to see if we can execute it. We did a good job tonight."

Bryant scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including the Lakers' first eight of a 27-12 run to close the game. His follow shot with three minutes left gave Los Angeles an 89-88 lead, its first since late in the first quarter.

Butler scored 23 points, including nine during a 22-10 surge late in the third. That push cut into the Jazz's 62-49 lead, their largest, and set up the fourth-quarter charge.

Atkins added 24 points and hit a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left to put Los Angeles ahead for good, 96-95.

The Lakers were without Lamar Odom, who sat with the flu.

"I have to be a little bit more aggressive, a little more assertive on offense and choosing my spots," Butler said of playing without Odom. "Everybody was stepping up, it was a collective effort."

But it was Bryant who took control when Los Angeles needed it most.

The Lakers failed to make a shot for the first 6:40 of the fourth quarter until Bryant's three-point play cut the deficit to 83-80.

Los Angeles hit all six of its free throws in the final minute to enter the All-Star break on a winning note after going 6-8 without Bryant.

"I think we did a good job (in the first half of the season) considering all of the things we have been through," Bryant said. "We are finding ourselves with a lot of room to improve and we know exactly what areas to improve on and how to improve upon them, so it's going to be an exciting second half."

Utah was in control until late despite playing without forwards Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko, who both sprained their right ankles in a loss at Phoenix on Monday.

Without their top two starters, the Jazz reserves outscored the Lakers' bench, 50-2. Mehmet Okur led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

"I was thinking that this had to be some kind of record," Bryant said of the benches' scoring disparity. "But the only thing that matters is we won."

Utah coach Jerry Sloan expressed frustration on how easy it was for Bryant to get to the line. He made 15-of-19 free throws, including a pair in the final minute to help seal it.

"Obviously they are going to get to the free-throw line," Sloan said. "Or at least it always appears that way if they (referees) won't let you touch him. The guy doesn't have to have it in his possession and the guy throws it up in the air and goes to the free-throw line."