Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening contest at New Orleans, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
0:00 Thanks to a late 8-0 run highlighted by back-to-back triples from Kobe, the Lakers managed to get into the second quarter tied at 28 despite six turnovers and 54.5 percent shooting from the Hornets. L.A.’s defense left much to be desired, and would need to improve in order to pull even on the 2-game trip.
0:00 The lead was 19 at the half, at 67-48, since a late Bryant burst trimmed what had grown to as many as a 25-point margin. New Orleans hit 57 percent of its first half shots, and 12 of 14 free throws, compared to 39 percent and 14 of 18 foul shots from the visitors. Howard played only those two minutes in the second quarter, and the Hornets took advantage in scoring a ridiculous 39 points.
0:00 The Lakers continued to score, but unfortunately for Purple and Gold loyalists, so did the Hornets as Gordon hit his fourth and Vasquez his second triple, New Orleans 8 of 16 from long distance, compared to L.A.’s 6 for 21. Bryant had been finding Howard consistently throughout the quarter, reaching eight assists as Howard amassed 17 points on 8 of 13 field goals in his 22 minutes, but the lead was still 18 points after three of four Bryant free throws in the final minute (24 points for Kobe).
4:00 Ouch. Meeks had a reverse layup go in and out, one that would have cut it to five, but Kobe threw home a dunk off a ridiculous move after another defensive stop to suddenly make it a 102-97 game with 3:38 to play. No matter for Meeks … he more than atoned while draining his fifth three-pointer to bring the Lakers within two. Again, this is a team who’d been down 25, and 18 heading into the fourth quarter. It was Bryant making the pass, his 12th assist of the evening. And by the way, the Hornets hadn’t scored since the 6:47 mark…
0:36.0 After tying the game on a driving layup, who but Kobe would put the Lakers up 104-102 on a fading jumper over the 7-foot Robin Lopez. We mentioned the D, and it was Howard leading the way, shutting down the Hornets screen/roll with constant energy playing through five fouls. But there was no bigger play than his flying, left-handed swat of the aforementioned Lopez, who was going up for a dunk, at the rim. So the Lakers called time out, and executed a brilliant out of bounds play to get Bryant a wide-open, uncontested dunk that made it 106-102. Yet another stop would follow on D, and Bryant’s two free throws with five seconds remaining sealed the deal. After all that, it was a 20-0 run to close the game, allowing L.A. to pick up a full game on Utah – who lost late by blowing a lead at Cleveland – and get back to .500.
Kobe finished with 42 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, and Howard added 20 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and three steals to lead the way on respective ends of the floor.