L.A. 100, N.O. 86: Game 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Friday evening road contest at New Orleans the Lakers looking to reclaim home-court advantage in their First Round series, 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: Paul, Belinelli, Ariza, Landry and Okafor

12:00 It was a sea of yellow in the Crescent City, with t-shirts of that color worn by nearly all of the sellout crowd, and “Beat L.A.” signs omnipresent. Among the words in the N.O. video intro were: “They say it can’t be done … Who cares what they say!” Yet this was a Lakers team that had won three consecutive Game 3′s in playoff road games after opening with splits against Houston and Denver (2009) and Boston (2010), and won at least won game in eight consecutive series. Should be a fun one…

3:48 At least for the first eight minutes, the Lakers played like the veteran road team that they are, rotating well on defense and pursuing the ball to cause four turnovers, while getting 10 points at the other end from Kobe Bryant — including a huge dunk that made him look like the old No. 8 — to take a 21-14 lead. Also key was Ron Artest, playing well for the third straight game with seven early points and his usual defensive activity.

1:50 The starters were terrific for Phil Jackson, opening a 9-point lead at 25-16 on a Bynum dunk with 2:10 to play. In came the bench, the Killah B’s alongside Gasol and Odom, as Chris Paul hit jumpers on three straight possessions to cut the margin to four with only Gasol managing to score (a baseline J he seemed relieved to see fall). The momentum thus going back to N.O., Odom’s and-1 in the paint with four seconds left was a key hoop, making it 30-23 at the quarter break.

11:33 L.A. was certainly pleased to see Matt Barnes look like his pre-injury self while running up and down in transition in Game 2, making all four of his field goals. He started this one by flying in for a tip-in dunk of Bynum’s miss in traffic, putting L.A. back up nine. Barnes told me yesterday that his knee is feeling much better in the last week than it had since he came back, and he was showing as much on the court.

8:09 The second unit built L.A.’s lead to 11 with a terrific play from Bynum, who grabbed his third offensive board (seventh total) and stuck home a pretty lefty hook to join Bryant with 10 points. N.O. had no answer for ‘Drew, helping establish paint dominance at both ends.

1:48 The Hornets were almost entirely dependent upon Paul to create offense with L.A. rotating so well on D, and he nailed his seventh jumper in nine attempts to reach 15 points, getting N.O. within five. But Bryant was right there at the other end with a fading banker to reach 15 himself. On the next two possessions, Fisher got Gasol a layup, and Gasol created a baseline dunk for Shannon Brown that made it a 49-38 Lakers lead.

11:01 Back-to-back Kobe threes were certainly a good way for L.A. to start the half on offense, though N.O. did get consecutive buckets from Okafor at the other end to keep the deficit at 11. Moments later, L.A. avoided yet another near scare as Bynum went down holding his right knee after stepping on Landry’s foot, but a collective sigh of relief was almost audible as he got up and ran back on defense.

5:25 An odd start to the third featured several strange calls, enough to get Jackson out of his seat and walking out to midcourt for an explanation after a T on Fisher, but despite four more turnovers, L.A. maintained its cushion behind two straight Gasol hoops, giving the Spaniard eight points into a time out with a 66-58 score line.

1:24 The Hornets, as they’d done in Los Angeles, continued to scrap and claw, cutting L.A.’s lead to six with a 5-0 run. But L.A. continued to respond, getting four straight to push it back to 10. Odom, however, picked up his fourth personal and had to sit, resulting in yet another 5-0 run this time cutting L.A.’s lead to five at 73-68.

10:52 A possession after missing a jumper he’s made consistently all year had Gasol simply shaking his head and laughing (of course thinking of his struggles throughout the series), he rose up to nail his 2nd career playoff three-pointer, and his first since hitting one for Memphis in 2005. Shortly thereafter, Steve Blake pulled up to nail his first shot of the game, also a three, to push L.A.’s lead back to 10.

8:22 More Spaniard. He followed up his three with a tough put-back through traffic of his own miss, then nailed a baseline J from the other side to suddenly reach seven points himself in the quarter, 17 for the game, while putting L.A. up a game-high 14 points. New Orleans called time out, as each Laker made sure to congratulate Gasol before he sat down.

3:02 It was all but over with three minutes left, two foul shots from Bryant pushing L.A.’s lead to 17 at 96-79. L.A. had clamped down defensively in the fourth, holding the Hornets to just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting with two turnovers.

The final margin: Lakers 100, Hornets 86, L.A. regaining home court advantage in the process. Your numbers:

1 Point scored by Andrew Bynum in the second half after he dominated New Orleans in the first half with 13 points and nine boards. In related news, Bynum tweaked his knee early in the third quarter, momentarily paralyzing Lakers fans, but he got up and played 15 more minutes, clogging the paint defensively despite losing the explosion he showed in the first half.

4 Consecutive wins for L.A. in the playoffs in Game 3′s they entered in a series tied at 1-1. First Houston in the Western Semi’s in 2009, then Denver in that year’s Western Finals, Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals and finally New Orleans on Friday.

7 Pau Gasol points in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, including his first playoff three-pointer as a Lakers, to reach 17 in the game. He added ten boards, four assists and a block in a strong bounce-back game from two far below his standards in Games 1 and 2, much to L.A.’s delight.

13 Turnovers on the Lakers in the first three quarters, one of the factors allowing N.O. to stay in the game down seven points heading into the fourth.

48.6 L.A.’s shooting percentage in an efficient all-around effort on offense, led by Bryant’s 10-for-20, Gasol’s 7-for-13 and Derek Fisher’s 3-for-4.

80 Times in Kobe Bryant’s playoff career that he’s scored at least 30 points, a mark he reached on a baseline floater through traffic with 1:21 left in the game.