Kobe Bryant took off awfully far away from the basket, a lot of purple paint still to cover before getting there. He got there. And had more after that. Bryant's latest whopping dunk of the season — and his most dominant late-game scoring kick — lifted the Lakers to a 99-98 victory over Atlanta on Sunday night. The Lakers' struggle to return to the .500 mark that spanned two-plus months is over ... for the moment. Climbing higher than .500 will be a substantial challenge: The Lakers visit Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. But the Lakers are officially respectable after Bryant's 34 points and thunderous dunk with Atlanta shot-blocking extraordinaire Josh Smith right on his hip. Bryant's path to the hoop on the play with 2:17 left for a 95-94 Lakers lead was cleared by Dwight Howard, who hustled in to seal Zaza Pachulia off after setting the initial pick for Bryant on the perimeter. Bryant said he knew he could turn the corner on the bigger Smith and Pachulia's help defense couldn't get there, so ... "I just took off." The Lakers lost the lead twice thereafter, but Bryant got it back both times, the last time on a difficult drive with nine seconds left.