Will he shoot or will he pass?

It usually remained an easy answer for Kobe Bryant, who hasn't climbed to fifth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list by accident. But by taking on a new-found facilitating role, Bryant encountered challenges on how he'd ensure team balance without sacrificing his scoring talents.

Not anymore.

The Lakers (28-30) enter tonight's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves (20-24) at Staples Center with Bryant averaging 30.8 points on 54.9 percent shooting and 6.8 assists through four games since the All-Star break.

"I found a balance," Bryant said. "We found a balance in terms of me being able to keep them involved and find my rhythm."

Bryant did so despite nursing a right shoulder injury and sprained right elbow that contributed to 1-of-34 shooting from 3-point range during a 15-game stretch. In the past three contests, Bryant was 5 of 9 from the perimeter.

"The odds are it was coming," Lakers guard Steve Nash said. "He hadn't made his shots for a while. That was very uncharacteristic."

It's also uncharacteristic for Bryant to take on a facilitating role, especially with Nash remaining one of the league's best passers.

But facing a three-game deficit to the Houston Houston Rockets (31-27) for the eighth

playoff spot, the Lakers have embraced the change.