Lakers 108, Hornets 102: Mar. 6 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening contest at New Orleans, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Hornets: G. Vasquez, E. Gordon, A. Aminu, A. Davis, R. Lopez

FIRST QUARTER
6:24 L.A. started the game with better energy than they were able to muster at Oklahoma City the night before despite arriving at 3 a.m., pushing to an early 12-8 lead when Kobe Bryant found Dwight Howard for a dunk after dumping it off to the big man in the paint. It was Howard’s second field goal, and meanwhile, both Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis had to sit with two fouls for the home team.

0:00 Thanks to a late 8-0 run highlighted by back-to-back triples from Kobe, the Lakers managed to get into the second quarter tied at 28 despite six turnovers and 54.5 percent shooting from the Hornets. L.A.’s defense left much to be desired, and would need to improve in order to pull even on the 2-game trip.

SECOND QUARTER
7:31 The Hornets drilled five consecutive shots to start the second quarter, quickly building a 10-point lead, and to make matters worse for the road team, Howard picked up his second and third fouls around the 10-minute mark and had to sit for the rest of the half. The third foul was entirely unnecessary, as he slapped at the ball trying to strip Robin Lopez under the rim. The team’s D was struggling enough with Howard in, and would now be very small for the rest of the period. Three minutes later, the Lakers would find themselves down 20 after back-to-back threes from Gordon, a Davis hoop at the rim and a tip in. They’d been outscored 28-8 in the quarter.

0:00 The lead was 19 at the half, at 67-48, since a late Bryant burst trimmed what had grown to as many as a 25-point margin. New Orleans hit 57 percent of its first half shots, and 12 of 14 free throws, compared to 39 percent and 14 of 18 foul shots from the visitors. Howard played only those two minutes in the second quarter, and the Hornets took advantage in scoring a ridiculous 39 points.

THIRD QUARTER
9:27 If L.A. were to erase a 20-point second half lead like they did against Charlotte during the Grammy Trip, they’d need a lot more of this: back-to-back threes from Metta, to give him 11 points and trim the lead to 15 points.

0:00 The Lakers continued to score, but unfortunately for Purple and Gold loyalists, so did the Hornets as Gordon hit his fourth and Vasquez his second triple, New Orleans 8 of 16 from long distance, compared to L.A.’s 6 for 21. Bryant had been finding Howard consistently throughout the quarter, reaching eight assists as Howard amassed 17 points on 8 of 13 field goals in his 22 minutes, but the lead was still 18 points after three of four Bryant free throws in the final minute (24 points for Kobe).

FOURTH QUARTER
6:15 L.A. cut the lead down to as few as 12 with a combination of Bryant and Howard, both having yet to get a rest in the second half … and Bryant continued his dominance moments later, first feeding Meeks for his 4th three (the 11th Bryant assist) and then draining a triple of his own, cutting the lead to only seven.

4:00 Ouch. Meeks had a reverse layup go in and out, one that would have cut it to five, but Kobe threw home a dunk off a ridiculous move after another defensive stop to suddenly make it a 102-97 game with 3:38 to play. No matter for Meeks … he more than atoned while draining his fifth three-pointer to bring the Lakers within two. Again, this is a team who’d been down 25, and 18 heading into the fourth quarter. It was Bryant making the pass, his 12th assist of the evening. And by the way, the Hornets hadn’t scored since the 6:47 mark…

0:36.0 After tying the game on a driving layup, who but Kobe would put the Lakers up 104-102 on a fading jumper over the 7-foot Robin Lopez. We mentioned the D, and it was Howard leading the way, shutting down the Hornets screen/roll with constant energy playing through five fouls. But there was no bigger play than his flying, left-handed swat of the aforementioned Lopez, who was going up for a dunk, at the rim. So the Lakers called time out, and executed a brilliant out of bounds play to get Bryant a wide-open, uncontested dunk that made it 106-102. Yet another stop would follow on D, and Bryant’s two free throws with five seconds remaining sealed the deal. After all that, it was a 20-0 run to close the game, allowing L.A. to pick up a full game on Utah – who lost late by blowing a lead at Cleveland – and get back to .500.

Kobe finished with 42 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds, and Howard added 20 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and three steals to lead the way on respective ends of the floor.