LAL 107, NOH 101: March 14 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at New Orleans, the Lakers looking for a third straight road win and fourth straight overall, 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, World Peace, Gasol and Bynum
Hornets: J. Jack, M. Belinelli, T. Ariza, G. Ayon, C. Kaman

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 Mike Brown’s reaction to Kobe Bryant’s playing 52 minutes in L.A.’s double OT victory at Memphis on Tuesday night was, simply, “Wow.” Kobe, of course, scoffed at the mention that this would somehow affect him for the Hornets game, which we’re about to see here. Also playing big minutes were Bynum (49) and Gasol (46), so energy level against an athletic Hornets line up would certainly be key. We’ll keep an eye out.

5:34 The Hornets were taking jumpers, the Lakers scoring inside. This is L.A.’s typical game plan, though if the opponent happens to hit those J’s, things like a 16-12 deficit can happen despite eight points from Gasol in the opening minutes. L.A. figures that, as league history has always shown, over time it’s better to shoot closer to the rim than from the perimeter.

0:00 L.A. always seems to bring out the best in their opponents, and they did once again as the Hornets made 11-of-17 field goals to open a 27-20 lead heading into the second quarter. The Lakers got little from anyone but Gasol (eight points) and Kobe (10, two triples), and watched Jarrett Jack make all five of his shots.

SECOND QUARTER
7:20 Back-to-back hoops from Greivis Vasquez, a U of Maryland product like Steve Blake, gave the Hornets a 38-26 lead. Bynum looked to be showing his lack of energy after a monster game at Memphis, missing all but one of five shots and totaling three turnovers.

3:26The deficit was 10 after Bynum dropped in an easy hoop thanks to his rim running (which always makes Mike Brown happy), and followed a huge double-pump slam from Kobe through traffic that had Samuel L. Jackson buzzing in his courtside seat. New Orleans, however, continued to score efficiently, as Jack got to the rim for his sixth field goal. He and Vasquez, in fact, were a combined 10-of-10.

0:00 The halftime deficit was 14, New Orleans shooting a lofty 61.5 percent against a team that usually allows only around 41 percent from the field. The problem was energy, which can be understood to a degree after L.A.’s double OT win the night before, but the coaching staff (we spoke to Chuck Person at the half) was confident L.A. could flip the script in the second half.

THIRD QUARTER
6:30 Sure enough, the Lakers turned up their defensive intensity to open the third, and it was no surprise that the lead was thus cut all the way down to five after Gasol’s dunk from a nice Bynum lob. The 7-footers have really, really figured out how to get each other the rock at the rim.

3:50 Yet another alley-oop, this time from Kobe to Bynum, occurred as Bryant came off a screen and the defense felt compelled to help. L.A. had a chance to cut the lead to as few as two when World Peace had an open look at a corner three, but his miss turned into a Hornets layup at the other end, keeping the lead at seven. Hitting that open three has been a problem for L.A. all season, their ranking 29th in the NBA.

0:00 And having just said that … Barnes nailed a corner three to tie the game. Terps Blake and Vasquez exchanged hoops in the final minute, bringing us to an even 70 points into the fourth. The 17-point deficit was dead, a new game for the fourth, the only question being how much energy the Lakers had to expend to chop that lead down.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:00 A 7-0 Hornets run to start the 4th wasn’t what L.A. had in mind, though a 4-0 response was more like it. Bynum was the key, feeding Gasol for a layup, blocking a shot and then hitting two free throws. Despite a slow start, Bynum was up to 14 points and 12 boards.

5:30 The Lakers starters continued to work hard, Fisher battling for a loose ball that eventually turned into a Bynum hammer from Gasol’s lob (heard that lately?). The lead was still three, however, as the Hornets were finding ways to score through Kaman inside and Jack on the perimeter.

0:00 For the third straight game, the Lakers erased a 5-point deficit in the final two minutes, the key play this time being Bryant drawing a 3-point shooting foul on Ayon, and hitting all three with about 20 seconds left to tie the game at 93. Three consecutive stops on D allowed it to happen.

OVERTIME
0:40.0 Metta World Peace, everybody! This time a huge play on defense as he stripped Jack leading to his transition layup at the other end. Fisher had put L.A. up one on the previous trip with a jumper, after a 4-0 Hornets run erased Kobe’s emphatic and-1 dunk that started the extra session.

0:22.1 A big stop for L.A. protected a three-point lead, with Bynum clearing a rebound after Ariza’s three came off the rim. Fisher, however, missed 1-of-2 FT’s, so the lead was four with 22.1 to play. Then came the second huge defensive play from World Peace, who swatted Kaman from behind and watched Bryant hit two free throws on the other end with 12.5 seconds left, pushing the lead to six.

0:00 And the final: 107-101 after Barnes added to the free throw total. A second straight road overtime victory for the Lakers would make for a nice plane ride home … even if some extra ice packs were required for tired knees. And, by the way, after the game we asked Kobe Bryant on KCAL about playing 100 minutes in two nights, with three overtime sessions: “I actually feel great.” He’s not a normal person. We’ll see you back in L.A. vs. Minnesota on Friday.