Lakers – Hornets Running Diary

As always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Lakers: Jordan Farmar, D.J. Mbenga
Hornets: Peja Stojakovic, Antonio Daniels

Hello from New Orleans, folks. Four things you need to know:

A) The Hornets are without Peja Stojakovic and backup point guard Antonio Daniels. You can read more about that in the pregame entry.
B) In the locker room, assistant coach Frank Hamblen explained that in addition to the pick and roll defense, this game will be about dictating tempo. He said the Lakers do want to run particularly when Chris Paul gets stuck below the foul line on offense, but otherwise L.A. needs to feed its bigs and make sure to run the offense.
C) Morris Peterson is the only guard on the Hornets bench with Daniels out, and he’s 6-7 and not particularly mobile. That’s good for the Lakers in some senses, though it also means that Chris Paul will have to play 40+ minutes … Which isn’t good.
D) Josh Powell and his wife Lauren are expecting their second daughter, to be named Hayden, tonight in New Orleans.

Starting Lineups:
Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Luke, Pau and Bynum
Hornets: Chris Paul, Devin Brown, Rasual Butler, David West and Tyson Chandler

First Quarter
10:44 Gasol opens the scoring for L.A. with an elbow jumper, a shot the Lakers seem able to get out of the triangle.

9:44 After three straight solid defensive possessions for the Lakers (three Hornets misses from the field after Butler hit a jumper to open the scoring) led to a Bryant jumper in transition and a 4-2 early lead.

7:50 Bryant picked up his second foul on a loose ball, with the Hornets up 7-6. This will be the earliest entry point for Sasha Vujacic all season. A minute later, Vujacic would pick up a personal which could have gone on Bynum (that would have been No. 2) to put the Hornets in the bonus pretty early.

5:22 CP3′s steal in his 108th consecutive game resulted in a Butler lay-up at the other end and a 12-12 tie after Vujacic canned a three on a great pass out of the double from Gasol. You have to credit Vujacic for finding the open spot in the defense.

4:40 Bynum’s second foul came on Chandler, who’s not someone you want getting easy baskets since he’s a terrible free throw shooter (56 percent). Time for Lamar Odom. Speaking of Odom … I’m not sure people realize how strong Odom is, but after running into him and his strength trainer at consecutive road hotels, it’s easier to see how he occasionally handles big power forwards and centers. He’s a lot bigger than you think.

2:50 Vujacic’s three-pointer from the top of the key clanked off the front rim, rose 15 feet in the air (literally) and went through the net. Shooter’s touch, I guess. 19-16 Lakers, a lead that they should be happy with considering Bryant and Bynum’s four collective fouls; credit a solid defensive effort for New Orleans 6-of-16 shooting.

1:27 Pau Gasol has been fantastic in the first quarter, carrying the Lakers offensively in Bryant’s absence. His and-1 made it 22-16 Lakers, and gave him nine points with four boards and an assist.

0:00 Two poor plays almost allowed the Hornets to score five straight points to close the quarter, but since Morris Peterson missed an open triple in the final seconds, it was only two. Peterson took advantage of an ill-advised Sasha reach-in moments before, and the three was enabled when Trevor Ariza picked up his dribble, got caught in the air and was picked by Paul.

However, even though L.A. turned the ball over eight times (awful) and committed seven personal fouls, their defense was good enough to hold New Orleans to 7-of-19 (36.8) as the Lakers converted 9-of-18 shots. L.A. definitely did a good job against the high pick and roll, and more or less controlled tempo to take a 24-20 lead into the second quarter.

Second Quarter
11:15 With Paul on the bench and Kobe back in, the Hornets scored two really easy buckets by Hilton Armstrong, then got a Morris Peterson layup to cap a 6-0 run and go up by two.

9:33 When Bynum grabs his own board, puts on his “Get out of my freaking way” face and stuffs, everybody wins. 29-27 Lakers.

9:00 Ariza and Odom both came up with fantastic blocks on the same possession. Ariza followed Posey around a baseline screen and smacked his three attempt out of bounds, before Odom swatted a Devin Brown layup attempt. On the next possession, it was Bynum collecting his second block of the game; the result was two Odom free throws at the other end and a 32-28 lead.

7:09 An Ariza jumper in transition capped perhaps the best two minutes of the past two week. Following the block party, Fish hit a wily-veteran-style floater in the lane just over Chandler’s outstretched hands, before Ariza’s J off his own rebound and push in transition gave L.A. its biggest lead at 36-28. Just so you know, that group was Fish, Kobe, Ariza, Odom and Bynum. What’s the over/under on number of Hornets fans in the building saying to the person next to them, in various forms, “I hate the Lakers.”? 12,000? 15,000?

4:45 After Bryant drew a foul by cutting hard to the rim and attempting a dunk (one make made it 41-31), the Hornets fans really started screaming at the refs, to the point where it was hard to hear anything else. How did Kobe respond on the next possession? By taking it even harder to the rim, spinning halfway around and destroying the rim with his right hand. Now that was fierce. Anyone else think Kobe had that planned when he caught the ball on the wing?

3:15 Another huge Lakers slam, this time from Odom. 47-35, as their best collective effort in a while continues. Odom has four points, six boards, three assists and a block. Ariza and Vujacic have seven points each off the bench, while Bynum and Bryant have combined for 14. Total team effort to build that 12-point lead into a 2:56 timeout. The Lakers were like the cast of friends in season five or so, when Rachel was hitting her hotness peak and Joey and Chandler were at their comedic best. Or the opposite of the chemistry of any “Real World” cast ever.

1:44 As Ariza hit two free throws after a really dirty play from James Posey (shocker) in which he tried to kick Ariza’s knee, the Lakers went up 53-36 and left me with this thought: Something woke the Lakers up. I’m not sure if it’s playing in a hostile environment against a conference opponent, the looming Celtics game, or just the chippy play of N.O., but L.A. is primed.

0:22 Gasol three. Bang. That capped what was probably L.A.’s best half of the season to put the Lakers up 56-37 at the break. If not the best half, it was definitely the best second quarter, as the Lakers outscored New Orleans 32-17. The Lakers didn’t turn the ball over once in the entire second period, forced five Hornets turnovers and aggressively attacked the home team’s rim. Very impressive.

One other note: The 37 points scored by New Orleans were the second lowest L.A. has given up in a half, since the Hornets only scored 30 points the last time the Lakers were in town.

Third Quarter
All right. The comments were deservedly on the very positive side after that first half, but it’s time to come back to earth. Surely Chris Paul’s going to be more aggressive in the second half, and surely the Hornets are going to hit more than 12 shots from the field. Remember, on November 12, the Lakers were up 51-30 at the half, and New Orleans charged back in the second half to come within one before losing by seven. One difference tonight is that other than Paul and West, New Orleans doesn’t really have a scorer on the floor, meaning CP3′s really going to have to carry the load. Can he?

10:15 The first two baskets of the second half went to the Hornets, after West and Brown hit jumpers, and the lead was quickly down to 15.

9:08 Answer from Kobe: Five straight points, including a triple, and L.A.’s lead was 20. However, the Hornets would respond immediately with five points straight back, including Butler’s second three-pointer.

7:26 Paul mugged Kobe to put L.A. in the bonus already, and two free throws later it was 65-46. The Lakers biggest lead seconds later came on a Bynum dunk off a great Walton pass, and can be credited to a great defensive possession that included a Gasol block and a desperation three from Brown, who’s not a good three-point shooter.

5:01 Bynum’s first good foul in several games (we kid) came with Chandler getting a nice pass in transition. Two free throws would ensue out of a timeout during which L.A. held an 18-point lead.

2:55 The first mini-run from New Orleans of the period featured six-straight points, culminating with a Butler alley-oop from Paul in transition that cut L.A.’s 21-point lead to 71-56 into a timeout. The run, however, was halted by two Kobe free throws.

1:04 A Posey three, his first points of the game, could have been a morale-booster heading into the fourth … until Fisher answered with a 23-foot triple of his own to push the lead back to 17.

14.8 Posey’s a cheap player. This is no secret. But after pushing Bryant off a Fisher miss as Bryant went up for the rebound, Posey gave him an extra shove to the floor, resulting in a technical. Bryant made the tech, but missed 1-of-2 shots on the personal. Paul would tip in his own miss at the buzzer to make it 80-64, as the Hornets were able to chip three-point off L.A.’s halftime lead.

Road Trip Rankings
Best Team: 1) Orlando; 2) New Orleans; 3) Miami; 4) Memphis
Best Food: 1) New Orleans; 2) Miami; 3) Memphis; 4) Orlando (couldn’t make it to Epcot Center, or this could have risen)
Best Nightlife: 1) Miami (shocker); 2) New Orleans; 3) Orlando; 4) Memphis
Best Hotel: 1) Miami; 2) New Orleans; 3) Orlando; 4) Memphis (no correlation to topic No. 3)

Fourth Quarter
11:06 Bynum puts back his own miss to get L.A. off the right foot. Getting off on the wrong foot, however, was Vujacic, who was whistled for two consecutive fouls on one possession (by just playing how he plays), meaning Jackson had to put Vladi into the game and go with Bryant and … Odom? in the backcourt.

10:30 Fresh off the bench, and Vladi drains a triple. That’s harder to do when you don’t have a gorgeous stroke, but still. Tough to do.

8:50 You wouldn’t want any player in the NBA taking the contested turnaround jumper on James Posey, even Kobe, but of course he nailed it. Lakers by 20, 87-67. More troubling than the actual margin is that the Lakers have had an answer for everything New Orleans has tried to throw at them.

6:23 With Kobe and Pau resting, and New Orleans having just scored four straight, who but Derek Fisher was game for contested, 23-foot jumper from the left wing. 89-72.

5:20 CP3 triple, Hornets within 14 at a timeout, with possession for the home team. Gasol has yet to play in the fourth, and you can bet Kobe’s coming back in for the close. In other news, for anyone interested in the X-Mas game, the Celtics will head into L.A. riding a 19-game winning streak after disposing of the 76ers at home tonight.

3:33 Five-straight Hornets points, and the lead’s down to 11. 91-80.

2:37 Kobe time continues … After another tough perimeter jumper halted that Hornets run, Bryant responded to a Peterson bucket by drawing a foul in a triple-team as he attacked the hoop. Both shots were good, and the lead was 13.

2:05 L.A. couldn’t clear a defensive rebound as the Hornets continued to take quick shots, and Paul canned a triple to cut it to 10. He couldn’t hit another on the next possession, and that time, Bryant cleared the board. L.A. would miss its next shot, but Odom would get the ball right back with a steal, as Ariza made 1-of-2 for an 11-point lead with 1:06 remaining. And that would be the ball game. Final score: 100-87 Lakers.

Plenty of reaction to come, but the bottom line is that it’s hard to picture a better Lakers performance heading into the Celtics game.