Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday night contest against New Orleans, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Hornets: G. Vasquez, E. Gordon, A. Aminu, A. Davis, R. Lopez
2:!7 Both teams were running their offenses efficiently in the first 10 minutes, with New Orleans getting three triples from Eric Gordon to take a 24-18 lead. Kobe Bryant – straight off back-to-back games of at least 14 assists – totaled four assists in the first five minutes, then watched Pau Gasol pick up the slack off the bench, with three assists of his own as Earl Clark’s second triple and Antawn Jamison’s first hoop cut the Hornets’ lead to one.
0:00 The run grew to 7-0 when Clark scored at the rim, his eight points second only to Dwight Howard’s 10, as L.A. held the Hornets scoreless in the final 3:28 of the period. Steve Blake made his first appearance since Nov. 11, having battled abdominal and abductor/groin issues, taking over backup point guard duties for Chris Duhon. Mike D’Antoni has long been a Blake fan, and thinks he’s an ideal fit in his system.
2:58 New Orleans got a banked three from Gordon to help cut L.A.’s lead to as few as five, but with Bryant returning, the Lakers reeled off eight of the next 10 points to go up 45-32. Kobe got some extra rest in the period, which can always be helpful on a back-to-back with the Lakers at Phoenix tomorrow night. They were shooting 51.4 percent, and had 16 assists on 18 field goals, this a team that averages 22 helpers a game in the season.
0:00 Well, there’s no doubt that the Lakers carried the momentum built with consecutive good wins over Utah and OKC into this game, jumping out to as much as an 18-point lead late in the second quarter before allowing an 8-0 Hornets run. Bryant got the final hoop of the quarter on a put-back, however, to make it a 54-42 margin at the break. Gasol was terrific as a playmaker off the bench, totaling six assists in his 14 minutes, with Bryant one behind. Howard had 17 points, keyed by his making five straight free throws, while Clark added eight points and six boards. Dwight’s help D was also terrific, as he blocked two shots, notched three steals and affected several attempts at the rim for a Hornets team that managed only 14 points in the paint.
8:19 The ball movement continued to be terrific to start the third, as Kobe found Howard for a dunk, before Howard gave it up for Clark’s dunk on the next possession, providing a 67-52 margin. New Orleans did manage to score the next six points, however, with back-to-back dunks from rookie Anthony Davis cutting the margin to nine.
5:10 Missed free throws began to disrupt LAL’s flow, as Howard and Gasol combined to miss five straight until Howard got one to go. As a team, they were 8 of 17, with Howard missing five and Gasol three, the Hornets taking advantage to cut the margin to as few as six after Davis and Gordon each hit two foul shots of their own (70-64).
0:00 It’s certainly fun to watch the Lakers when they move the ball like they did against the Hornets; Bryant’s ninth and 10th, and Gasol’s sixth and seventh dimes pushed the team total to 27 on 31 field goals, and helped restore a double-digit lead (83-73) after the visitors had trimmed it to as few as four last in the quarter. Gasol had a fun line of 7 points, 7 boards and 7 assists, while Bryant was triple-double hunting again with 10 points, 10 assists and seven boards.
5:51 The bench group of Blake-Meeks-Jamison-Clark-Gasol (and then Howard, who subbed in for the Spaniard) playing very well, L.A. pushed its lead up to 98-80 as Bryant and Nash got extra rest on the bench, both playing only 29 minutes, with a back-to-back coming up at Phoenix on Wednesday night. Jamison had 14 and Meeks 13 points off the pine, and Blake had four assists in his 13 minutes.
4:05 A pull-up J from Nash, back in alongside Kobe a minute earlier, halted an 8-0 Hornets run that cut the lead to 10. Mike D’Antoni likely didn’t want to play that card, but felt he needed to with the opponent mounting a late run. After Jamison missed consecutive wide open shots on O, New Orleans continued to score in transition, getting an and-1 from Vasquez at the 3:20 mark to cut the lead to seven. A minute later, the lead was just four, when Ryan Anderson pulled up in transition to hit the seventh NOH triple, cutting the margin to 100-96. The 16-2 Hornets run came mostly out of fast breaks, with L.A. not getting back as they had in the previous quarters.
1:21 Clark had been huge all game (20 points, 12 rebounds), so it was fitting that his bucket at the rim, rebound and then assist for a dagger triple from Nash put the Lakers up 107-101 after the Hornets had cut the lead down to a single point. Kobe added a few late free throws towards the final margin of 111-106, L.A.’s third straight win at home in advance of the upcoming 7-game Grammy road trip. We’ll see you in Phoenix tomorrow night.