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:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Hornets: G. Vasquez, E. Gordon, A. Aminu, A. Davis, R. Lopez
L.A. started the game with better energy than they were able to muster
at Oklahoma City the night before despite arriving at 3 a.m., pushing to
an early 12-8 lead when Kobe Bryant found Dwight Howard for a dunk
after dumping it off to the big man in the paint. It was Howard’s second
field goal, and meanwhile, both Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis had to
sit with two fouls for the home team.
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.
7:31 The Hornets drilled five consecutive shots to start the
second quarter, quickly building a 10-point lead, and to make matters
worse for the road team, Howard picked up his second and third fouls
around the 10-minute mark and had to sit for the rest of the half. The
third foul was entirely unnecessary, as he slapped at the ball trying to
strip Robin Lopez under the rim. The team’s D was struggling enough
with Howard in, and would now be very small for the rest of the period.
Three minutes later, the Lakers would find themselves down 20 after
back-to-back threes from Gordon, a Davis hoop at the rim and a tip in.
They’d been outscored 28-8 in the quarter.
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.
9:27 If L.A. were to erase a 20-point second half lead like they
did against Charlotte during the Grammy Trip, they’d need a lot more of
this: back-to-back threes from Metta, to give him 11 points and trim the
lead to 15 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).
6:15 L.A. cut the lead down to as few as 12 with a combination of
Bryant and Howard, both having yet to get a rest in the second half …
and Bryant continued his dominance moments later, first feeding Meeks
for his 4th three (the 11th Bryant assist) and then draining a triple of
his own, cutting the lead to only seven.
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.