Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday night home contest against New Orleans as the Lakers looked for their fifth win in six games since Andrew Bynum returned to the starting line up, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Hornets: C. Paul, M. Belinelli, T. Ariza, D. West, E. Okafor
7:26 The Lakers’ coaching staff always enjoys an aggressive Pau Gasol early in games, which we saw as the Spaniard opened with a jumper, two foul shots and a put-back layup to reach six points with three boards in putting L.A. up 14-11. His scoring has dipped considerably in the past month due primarily to a lack of field goal attempts, but the Lakers weren’t concerned. Moments later, he’d add two more field goals to reach 10 points with four rebounds.
0:31.9 Phil Jackson replaced Andrew Bynum with Lamar Odom with about four minutes left, leaving the too-effective-to-rest Gasol out there, which would pay off again late as he found Shannon Brown on a back cut for the final bucket of the period, giving the Lakers a 27-24 lead. Yet it was the second quarter in New Orleans last week in which the Lakers blew the game open…
8:14… And they looked intent on doing the same early in the period, getting Bynum’s second bucket of the period after a pretty layup from Odom to open a 35-28 lead. Gasol, Bynum and Odom were a combined 9-for-11 at that point, taking advantage of the Hornets’ lack of size.
5:33 Despite shooting just 26 percent from three in the season, former Laker Trevor Ariza made his second triple of the game, and fourth field goal in five tries, to bring the Hornets within three. The Lakers had eased off a bit defensively, perhaps because shots were coming so easily at the other end, to allow New Orleans to stay in the mix.
0:49.4 Bryant’s long two gave him a game-high 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, continuing a terrific performance from the field for the whole Purple and Gold team that had ‘em at 62 percent, and up 49-41. The Hornets managed to pull a few points back with a triple and two Chris Paul free throws (just his third and fourth points of the half), the Lakers taking a 51-46 lead into the half.
10:15 To open the game, we talked about how much L.A.’s coaches like when Gasol gets off early. They also like when fellow 7-footer Bynum establishes good low-post position, and then takes his time with his moves and shots. En route to his 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, Bynum did just that, taking his defender deep, waiting to get ‘em off balance, and simply rising and dropping home shot after shot, his latest keeping L.A. up five.
5:49 The Hornets, however, responded with an 8-0 run capped by Marco Belinelli’s triple to take a 62-61 lead. The Lakers suddenly went cold from the field despite creating good shots, with Bryant missing all three of his attempts to that point in the quarter.
2:02 Leading the charge out of that poor offensive stretch was, naturally, Bryant, who set up Gasol and then Artest for back-to-back buckets, then made 1-of-2 two free throws to tie Oscar Robertson as the 9th all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Moments later, Bryant would bank in a hanging, running jumper to surpass the Big 0 and push his way further into the record books. Pretty amazing, and hard to put into perspective while he’s still playing at such a high level.
6:11 Having already lost Matt Barnes to a sprained right knee late in the first half, the Lakers were happy to see Steve Blake come back out of the locker room after getting the left ankle he’d jut sprained. Blake, one of the tougher players in the league, was available for return if Phil Jackson deemed it necessary. The Lakers, meanwhile, continued to hold off a Hornets’ team playing with quite a bit of grit, looking for revenge after L.A.’s blowout win a week earlier in the Big Easy.
5:04 In that road win, Odom went off for 24 points, his career high off the bench. Tonight, he was even better despite a few less points, nailing three straight shots in the fourth to reach 17 points with 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks, putting L.A. up 89-83.
1:23 Perhaps the most impressive of Bryant’s motley crew of tough shots on this evening was a left-handed floater over N.O.’s defense as he cut diagonally left through the paint, putting L.A. up 97-92 and essentially sealing the team’s fifth victory in six games since Bynum returned to the starting line up. Gasol would add three late foul shots to cap a terrific game in which he scored 20 points with 13 rebounds and seven assists. The final: Lakers 101, Hornets 97, L.A. winning for the fifth time in six games since Bynum returned to the starting line up.