Lakers vs New Orleans: Lakers defeat Hornets
The Lakers just keep on rolling, this time dispatching the New Orleans Hornets.
The Lakers are 15-1 since the All-Star break.
And because the Spurs lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, the Lakers moved to within four games of San Antonio for the best record in the NBA.
The Lakers had set their sights on keeping the second-best record in the Western Conference, trying to stay ahead of the Dallas Mavericks, who went into tonight two games back.
The Lakers and Mavericks play Thursday night at Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 30 points.
Pau Gasol had a double-double with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
The Lakers went to sleep for a few moments in the third quarter, allowing the Hornets to cut a 16-point halftime deficit to nine points.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson called a timeout and chastised his players.
They responded by scoring eight consecutive points to open a 72-55 lead.
But the Lakers' sluggish play had let the Hornets close to within 11 points entering the fourth quarter.
Lakers 57, Hornets 41 (end of first half)
The Lakers went ahead by as many as 18 points in the second quarter, seemingly having their way with the Hornets.
By the end of the first half, Kobe Bryant had 19 points on seven-for-12 shooting and Pau Gasol had 15 points on six-for-nine shooting.
The Lakers, ranked eighth in the NBA in points allowed per game, limited the Hornets to 37.2% shooting in the first half.
Carl Landry had 13 first-half points for the Hornets, but he was the only effective player for New Orleans, which is playing withouth injured power forward and former All-Star David West. Point guard Chris Paul is two-for-four shooting with six points and seven assists.
Lakers 30, Hornets 19 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers became assertive midway through in the first quarter Sunday evening at Staples Center, scoring eight straight points, which forced New Orleans to call a timeout with 5:54 left.
That stretch seemed to drive the Lakers the rest of the quarter.
Kobe Bryant led the way withh 11 points and Pau Gasol had nine points and six rebounds in the opening quarter.
The Lakers scored 18 of their 30 first-quarter points in the paint and shot shot 56.5% from the field in the quarter.
Other than the first game between the Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets, the games have been close this season.
But the Lakers have won all three of them and are looking forward to defeating the Hornets on Sunday night at Staples Center to sweep the four-game series.
The Lakers defeated the Hornets in New Orleans by 15 points, at home by four and back on the road by six last month.
"We've had close games with them," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "We've been fortunate to score down the stretch. Our size is a factor."
The Lakers will start seven-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
They will be matched up against 6-10 Emeka Okafor and 6-9 Carl Landry.
Landry is starting at power forward in place of David West, who tore a knee ligament on Thursday and is out for the season.
"Landry is a very good ball player," Jackson said. "Where it's going to affect them is coming off the bench."
-- Broderick Turner
Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest steals the ball from Hornets guard Jarrett Jack during the first half Sunday at Staples Center. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times