After the Lakers dropped close games in Miami and Orlando and just squeaked out a win in Memphis, Tuesday evening’s drubbing of a Hornets team that had been playing great basketball in Cajun Country was certainly a confidence booster heading into the X-Mas Day showdown with Boston.
The 100-87 Lakers win was never in doubt thanks to an effort complete with defensive intensity, good ball movement and, more importantly, a consistently fiery competitiveness that had been lurking in the distance in recent weeks.
It was a team win in the truest sense of the word; Everybody chipped in:
Kobe Bryant took just 18 shots for his 26 points; Pau Gasol was fantastic with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, with seven boards and three assists; Andrew Bynum was solid defensively with three blocks and seven boards, plus 13 points; Trevor Ariza had 10 points and two key steals; Lamar Odom had eight points, eight boards, five assists, a steal and a block; Sasha Vujacic contributed seven points and three steals in 11 minutes of feisty play; Vladimir Radmanovic hit a key second half three despite sitting on the bench for most of the game; Derek Fisher hit a few big shots in 39 more minutes and Luke Walton tossed a few slick passes the sparked L.A. in the early goings.
As a team, the purple and gold had just four turnovers after the first quarter, blocked six shots, grabbed seven steals, went to the foul line 32 times and held the Hornets below 40 percent shooting for nearly the whole game.
Instead of numbers, here’s what some of the players and both coaches had to say afterwards:
Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson
On the game: “I thought we sustained our effort against (Chris) Paul, trying to keep him out of the paint. I think the big deal is David West. We really wanted to get that match-up the right way, and Pau (Gasol) has done a good job on him before. I thought that really helped tonight. He’s a 20-point-a-game scorer, and we were able to keep that down a little bit. They obviously missed (Peja) Stojakovic tonight; we’re not going to make too big a deal out of it.”
On the second half: “I didn’t like our second half too much. I think our first half was very good, we played right, and we did a lot of good things. The second half, we got stalled up, they (the Hornets) did some really good defensive things, and we didn’t come out shooting well. But our defense held pretty strong.”
On the defense: “It was ok. There are still things that we’re working on about those easy baskets that we shouldn’t give up. We gave up a few of them. And there are still things that we’re working on about rebounds. They have to be gathered in; we have to get to that ball.”
Lakers Forward Lamar Odom
On the game: “We played up to our capability, though we feel like we could play better. I think we did a better job of closing it out. We tried to make it hard for them using our length, as well as our quickness. It was a good offense against a good defense. We had Pau (Gasol) be aggressive early. We wanted to come out and do it as a team.”
Lakers Guard Kobe Bryant
On the game: “We did a good job on our rotations, looking down lanes and getting to shooters. It was a good game for us. The last two times we’ve been here we had big leads and gave them away. We had to battle this one out. Even though they made a run, it felt good to keep them at bay where the game wasn’t threatened. We were in great rhythm.”
Hornets Head Coach Byron Scott:
“We got so emotionally involved in the game that we stopped playing against the Lakers and started moaning and groaning about every call. We got back to worrying about the team we were playing against in the end of the 3rd and 4th quarter, and started playing much better. As a young group we can’t get that emotionally involved in the game and we got to play better basketball.”
“Two of our worst games have been against this team. It could be us. It could be them. It could be both.”
Hornets Forward David West:
On the Lakers: “They just play aggressive. We had to work way too hard on the offensive end to get baskets. That’s basically what it came down to. We really had to buckle down and guard them on every single play. We made it easy for them to guard us.”
On if the Lakers present matchup problems: “They’re really disciplined. They come down and they really get what they want on the offensive (end) and they really make you defend them. It makes it really tough. A lot of times a guy is going to be out on an island by themselves.”
Hornets Guard/Forward Morris Peterson
On the loss: “We can’t come out and play like we did in the first half and then try to make it an uphill battle against a team like the Lakers. When I’m out there on the floor, I just try to concentrate on doing what I can to help. A lot of times, I am out there to try and spread the floor. Tonight we came up short. It’s a disappointing night for us.”