The Los Angeles Lakers played another game without Kobe Bryant and they hoped to have a better performance than their last game. The Lakers gave up 125 points to the Phoenix Suns, and they were not looking to do that to the sub-par New Orleans Hornets.
The Lakers cannot rely on Kobe Bryant to win them every game in the playoffs, so having him on the bench was a good way for the other players to find their own shots and perform well without him.
With their own stars Eric Gordon and Jarrett Jack out for the game, the New Orleans Hornets were short-handed, but they did not let that affect their play. The Hornets were playing with energy in the opening minutes and were feeding off the crowd’s emotion. However, both teams were struggling to score the ball and both offenses were painful to watch. At the 9:36 mark of the first quarter, the Hornets held a 4-2 lead.
The Lakers finally got it going from the field and they were beginning to find success on the offensive end. They were hitting their shots on the perimeter and used an 8-0 run to take a 10-7 lead with 6:50 left in the period. The Lakers were playing with energy and shook off the early game rust. The entire lineup was energetic and that resulted in great defense and nice looks on the other end.
However, the Lakers could not get enough going to open up a large lead and they allowed the Hornets to stay in the game. The shots that were falling for the Lakers early on were not going down, and the Hornets were continuing to get their points in the paint. New Orleans was dissecting the Lakers’ defense and after an Al-Farouq Aminu dunk, the Lakers lead was down to 16-15 with 3:10 left in the first.
The latter portion of the first quarter went back-and-forth and after 12 minutes of play, the Lakers had a 21-19 lead. Pau Gasol, Devin Ebanks and Ramon Session lead the way for the Lakers with six points each.
The Hornets began the second quarter much like they began the game. The team was playing with energy and every player was working hard on both ends of the court. Carl Landry was the centerpiece to the Hornets’ offense in the opening minutes of the period, and he was making shots from every angle on the court. At the 9-minute mark of the opening quarter, the Lakers had just a 26-25 lead.
Landry continued to play well for the Hornets, and was scoring on nearly every possession. The Lakers had no answer for him and he was no doubt the catalyst for the team’s excellent second quarter play. Landry scored ten consecutive points for New Orleans, but luckily for the Lakers, Gasol was knocking down his shots on the other end. With 6:05 left in the half, the Lakers had a 32-29 lead.
However, once Landry went to the bench for his rest, the Lakers took advantage. Los Angeles was clicking on all cylinders and their big men were dominating the paint. As for the Hornets, they could not buy a bucket without Landry and were struggling with the ball in their hands. With 3:30 left in the second quarter, the Lakers were up 40-31.
The Hornets ended the half on a 12-4 run and Andrew Bynum’s poor play in the final minute did not help the Lakers’ cause. New Orleans caught fire from the field and his 15 points helped the Lakers to a 44-43 lead.
Both teams were feeding the ball to their big men in the opening minutes of the third quarter and the majority of the points came down in the paint. Gasol continued to shine for the Lakers, whereas Bynum’s 3-9 shooting was not doing much to help the Lakers. The Hornets also had their perimeter game going and that helped them to a 50-48 lead with 9:00 left to play in the quarter.
The Lakers’ offense became stagnant and they were not moving the ball like they used to. On top of that, the Hornets’ defense was much improved and they were no longer giving the Lakers open looks in the paint. New Orleans continued to work their post-game and got most of their points in the paint. At the 6:03 mark of the period, the Hornets held a 54-52 lead.
The Hornets kept their foot on the gas pedal and the return of Carl Landry made things more difficult for the Lakers. Landry did not miss a beat despite the long break and continued to stay hot from the field. Bynum’s poor shot selection continued and it seemed as though he had no confidence in his jumper. Momentum was on the Hornets’ side and their 14-3 run gave them a 66-58 lead with 3:00 left to play in the quarter.
After 36 minutes of play, the Lakers faced a 72-65 lead and needed solid play on both ends of the court to complete the comeback. Gasol led the way for the Lakers with 17 points and eight rebounds and Landry put in 16 points for the Hornets.
Gasol was the center piece to the Lakers’ offense and he was delivering for them in the paint. However, the Lakers were having trouble stopping the Hornets on the defensive end and could not put together a run. The Lakers were playing much better with the ball in their hands, but they could not do anything to stop Marco Belinelli. He hit consecutive jumpers for the team and gave them a 79-71 lead with 8:37 to play.
The game became a back-and-forth affair, something the Lakers could not afford. They needed stops on one end, but the hot hand of Landry prevented them from doing that. The Lakers could not put a major dent in the Hornets’ lead because of that and were failing to put pressure on the opponent. With 6:12 left in the game, the Lakers faced a 81-73 deficit.
However, once the Lakers recommitted to the defensive end, they finally put together an impressive run. The Lakers were closing out on the Hornets’ shooters and their pressure in the paint disrupted Landry’s play. To make things better, the Lakers were knocking down shots from the field and cut the hole to two, 84-82, at the 3:55 mark.
In the final three minutes of the game, the Lakers completed the comeback and took care of the Hornets. Although their closer Kobe Bryant did not play, the other players stepped up big and made key plays down the stretch. The defense was excellent in the fourth quarter and that gave the Lakers easy opportunities on the offensive end.
As the final buzzer rang, the Lakers beat the Hornets, 93-91. Gasol finished as the Lakers’ leading scorer with 25 points, followed by Bynum with 17 points.
The Lakers will be back in action on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to play the Spurs at 5:30 p.m. PST.