Lakers 103, Hornets 88: Dec. 29 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at New Orleans as the Lakers looked to break a three-game losing streak, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Hornets: C. Paul, M. Bellinelli, T. Ariza, D. West, E. Okafor

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 So that was a surprise. Andrew Bynum, who looked pretty good the previous night in San Antonio, made his first start of the season for the Lakers. Phil Jackson implied prior to Tuesday’s game that he didn’t expect Bynum to start within the next few games, but it was the 7-footer who lined up to take the opening tip.

2:30 Five early turnovers on the Lakers allowed the Hornets to take an 16-12 lead, but when actually setting up in the half court L.A. executed very well, making 10-of-13 shots with Bynum contributing six points, a board and a block. Jackson kept him in the game while giving Gasol an early rest as Odom checked in for the first time, at which point L.A. promptly went on an 8-2 run to open a 22-18 lead.

0:08.0 Bryant’s too-short fadeaway to close the quarter was a rare misfire for L.A. in the first, as the Purple and Gold finished at 12-of-16 from the field, otherwise known as 75 percent. Bynum was 3-of-4, Kobe 3-of-5 and Fisher, Gasol, Odom and Blake a combined 5-for-5. Keeping New Orleans around were seven Lakers turnovers, and Chris Paul’s 5-for-6 from the field.

SECOND QUARTER
8:02 Putting Odom on the bench seemed to do wonders for L.A. on this Wednesday night, as he had quickly amassed nine points in nine minutes on 4-of-5 shooting, seemingly doing whatever he wanted on offense. Odom told me two weeks ago that he was more than prepared mentally to return to the bench, feeling that he was in a great state of mind to do so, and has encouraged Bynum throughout his return to full health with promises that his starting spot was sitting there waiting for him. In related news to Odom’s play, plus a big talent mismatch with he and Gasol joining the Killer B’s against a relatively weak Hornets bench, L.A. took a 38-29 lead.

4:48 Moments later, the lead was up to 16, as Odom added two free throws with his team continuing to shoot lights out from the field (71.4 percent). In that same conversation, Odom told me that he can tell how comfortable he is based on how he’s shooting free throws, and these two swished right through to give him a game-high 11.

0:00 It was more of the same in the final four minutes, the Lakers closing the half at 67.6 percent with 15 assists to their credit, the same number they mustered in the entire game at San Antonio. Bynum, Gasol and Odom were a combined 11-of-14 from the field as the Lakers were excellent at getting the ball inside.

THIRD QUARTER
7:17 Bryant’s second consecutive made jumper pushed L.A.’s lead to 24, while the man he was guarding had made only 1-of-11 shots at the other end. Marco Bellinelli, an Italian, had been jawing with Bryant — presumably in Italian, we’d think — apparently to little effect.

2:00 Gasol and Odom know how to score on DJ Mbenga (you know him as Congo Cash), their former teammate who’s now with New Orleans, and Odom did so with a pretty lefty streak to the hoop that preceded his long two moments later. To show once again how comfortable he is off the bench, Odom added a sneaky lil’ pull-up three from the top of the key to make it an 83-60 Lakers lead after three, himself reaching a game-high 18 points in 19 minutes.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:18 The Hornets tried to mount a final comeback, cutting four points off the lead in the first few minutes of the fourth, but remained down 89-70 with a large hill to climb. Phil Jackson was hoping to keep Bryant and Gasol on the bench, no doubt.

5:34 More Odom. This time a put-back to stop a Hornets’ run, putting the Lakers up 93-76 and getting himself to a game-high 22 points off the bench, two more than N.O.’s entire bench.

4:30 OK sorry, but more Odom, this the best so far. With the ball in transition, Odom picked up his dribble, went around his back with the ball while cutting through the lane and tossed up a lefty finger roll. It rolled off the rim, but Odom went up to slam home a one-handed put-back jam that had his teammates jump off the bench, and the crowd whistling in admiration. Taking it back to the Queens playground, for sure. Meanwhile, Phil Jackson had put Bryant and Gasol back into the game despite the big lead, as he’s often eager to finish off good games with positive momentum to take into the next game.

An odd final stretch included two technical fouls on Matt Barnes for a push and some extra curricular chatter, which ended up bringing Bynum back in as the Hornets selected him to shoot the fouls shots, recognizing that he missed all but two of eight the previous night. But Bynum was happy to have a chance to correct his stroke, and he made both before adding a face-up jumper to finish the game with a season-high 18 points. Your final: Lakers 103, Hornets 88 in a very impressive all-around performance, the champs looking as much for the first time in a bit.

POSTGAME NUMBERS
58 Field goal percentage for the Lakers, who made 41-of-70 shots. That number was actually deceptively low, because L.A. was hovering around 70 percent until a slow offensive fourth quarter as the Lakers tried to maintain a safe margin.

30 Minutes played by Andrew Bynum, who looked terrific throughout in scoring a season-high 18 points with six rebounds, making 8-of-12 field goals.

25 Assists notched for the Lakers a game after producing only 15 against San Antonio. Kobe Bryant moved the basketball effectively and took only 14 shots in 28 minutes, making eight en route to 20 points with four dimes.

24 Points for Lamar Odom off the bench, a career high in a reserve role, which was still more than that scored by N.O.’s entire bench early in the fourth quarter before garbage time.

20 More rebounds collected by the Lakers (44-24) in an impressive effort on the glass. Pau Gasol had 12 to lead the way.