Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home playoff game at STAPLES Center, the Lakers looking to go ahead 3-2 in the 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, Okafor
5:45 While the Lakers all said they weren’t worried at all about how healthy Bryant was, just assuming he’d figure it out as he always does, it was clear in the early goings that his ankle/foot was really bothering him. L.A. ran very little for him on offense, instead feeding Bynum and Gasol (four FGA’s apiece), but he was struggling to follow Trevor Ariza around on defense.
3:39 Despite N.O. making 9-of-10 shots to open the game, L.A. trailed by only one at 20-19 thanks to a pair of three-pointers and four forced TO’s on the Hornets. However, Bryant did not look any better before Jackson took him out earlier than usual with 3:39, and N.O. made three more field goals to reach 12-of-14 in the period, allowing a 27-19 lead. L.A. would need a lot from Lamar Odom in Bryant’s absence, but he missed his first two shots.
0:00 So much of L.A.’s confidence and swagger comes from Kobe, and with him clearly not himself, the Lakers looked a bit lost. N.O. capitalized by being the aggressor, closing the quarter with a 32-23 lead behind 68.4 percent from the field.
9:24 As such, it was critical that L.A. had at least a few players step into the Kobe void, which Shannon Brown and Odom promptly did. Odom opened with a driving layup, Brown nailed back-to-back threes, and a great deal of defensive activity prompted a 0-for-4 N.O. start (plus two turnovers) and a 10-0 LAL run gave the home team its first lead.
4:42 Not normally a good offensive player by NBA standards, Trevor Ariza didn’t seem to get the memo, having his second straight terrific offensive half in the series by making his fifth shot in six attempts, including three 3-pointers, to put N.O. up 41-38.
3:01 And … YIKES! Where did that come from? Please consult Lakers.com later for a highlight, but here’s my tweet of an absurd dunk from Kobe in Emeka Okafor’s face: “Wow … where did that come from? Kobe whipped out his ol’ No. 8 jersey, ankle and all, for a thunder dunk.” He followed with another tough hoop driving to the rim, essentially telling his foot and ankle to shut up, tying the game in the process. Amazing.
0:00 No, really, check out that replay. OK … L.A. managed to go into the half up 54-51, outscoring N.O. 31-19 in the second quarter behind Bryant’s 13 points, key energy from the bench and strong all-around play from Fisher. Bryant was struggling to move on defense, however, N.O. capitalizing enough to find Ariza w/16 and Willie Green eight points primarily with Bryant trying to defend.
10:32 The Lakers opened the half on a 5-0 run to gain their first semblance of control of the game, getting a triple from Fisher and a Bynum 15-foot jumper to make it 59-51. Fisher, impressive in the first half, stayed hot with his fifth make in six attempts plus three assists.
8:22 There’s no great way to describe yet another monster dunk from Kobe in words, so we’ll again urge you to watch the video. But this time, Bryant went way back for a jackhammer … left-handed. Ridiculous. Clearly Bryant’s straight up elevation was just fine, but he continued to have trouble moving laterally on that sore foot/ankle.
2:44 Bryant looked better physically than in the first half to help L.A. build its lead to 10 before back-to-back Belinelli 3′s cut it in half. Bryant’s fourth assist got Odom a layup, however, and Gasol converted a tough and-1 from the baseline over Okafor to make it a 76-65 lead for the Lakers. Gasol was up to 14 points, five boards, four assists and two blocks in an improved effort.
0:23.2 Ariza became the second Hornet to hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut a Laker lead in half, though free throws from Odom (2) and Fisher (1) made it a 79-72 margin after three.
10:23 L.A. kept its attack going to open the fourth, getting to the rim to either draw fouls or finish (Bynum an and-1) before Odom’s pull-up jumper pushed L.A.’s lead to 13. The paint points dramatically favored the home team at 42-20, underscoring L.A.’s effort.
6:37 A corner three-pointer from Blake continued L.A.’s strong play from the PG position, while a player making his case as the world’s best PG in Paul nailed a tough fading jumper despite nearly perfect defense from Barnes. That, however, was just the third Hornets FG of a quarter featuring L.A.’s 15-6 scoring margin (after 1-of-2 Barnes free throws), producing a 93-78 score line as Bryant, Gasol and Fisher returned to try and close it out.
3:28 Two free throws from Kobe kept LAL very safely in control, up 99-83 as the minutes ran out. All five starters plus Odom were in double figures, the team stats showing LAL’s terrific all-around effort: 42-26 paint points, 22-2 second chance points, 18 Hornets turnovers.
0:00 For the sixth consecutive time since acquiring Gasol, L.A. won Game 5 at home. Their average margin of victory had been roughly 18 points, and this one followed a similar pattern in a final score reading 106-90. Stay tuned for postgame numbers.