Lakers-Hornets Game 4: New Orleans wins, 93-88, to even series at two games apiece
The Lakers ensured they will have to make one more trip to New Orleans, turning what was supposed to be a straightforward first-round series into a deeply competitive matchup.
The Hornets defeated the Lakers, 93-88, on Sunday night at New Orleans Arena in Game 4, tying the series, 2-2. Game 5 is on Tuesday at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Hornets point guard Chris Paul was at his dazzling best, finishing with a triple-double: 27 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds. His final assist was especially clutch, hitting teammate Jarrett Jack with 9.3 seconds left.
Jack, who had been scoreless, put down a seven-foot jumper in the lane to give the Hornets a 90-86 lead and then hit three free throws in the final seconds to seal the victory.
Kobe Bryant, who went scoreless in the first half, finished with 17 points while Ron Artest and Pau Gasol each had 16 points.
Reserve forward Lamar Odom was hardly a factor, finishing with six points on one-for-seven shooting from the field.
The Lakers were outrebounded, 39-32, and New Orleans had a huge edge in second-chance points, 20-4.
With 1:32 remaining, Kobe Bryant rolled his left ankle in pursuit of Hornets guard Willie Green and looked to be in visible pain. He attempted to walk off the pain during the Lakers' timeout.
It is the same ankle that has been troubling Bryant, who first refused to be substituted until Coach Phil Jackson whistled at him and waved him to the bench.
Bryant returned to the game less than a minute later and drove to the basket, passing to Pau Gasol, who fumbled the ball way.
Chris Paul got the ball and was fouled. Paul made both free throws for an 88-84 Hornets lead with 1:12 left.
Hornets 81, Lakers 77 (5:40 left in fourth quarter)
The Lakers keep creeping back after having trailed by as many as nine points when the Hornets' Chris Paul hit a step-back, 15-foot jumper with 6:13 remaining.
But Steve Blake started a five-point run for the Lakers with his three-pointer and Kobe Bryant followed up with a 10-foot jumper in the lane to cut the New Orleans lead to four.
Hornets 69, Lakers 67 (end of third quarter)
Chris Paul had his triple-double sealed and delivered with about two minutes left in the quarter. He has 13 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds, and it was the second time he has pulled off a triple-double in the playoffs.
Paul’s last triple-double was Dec. 29, 2009. The last player to record a triple-double against the Lakers in the playoffs was Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who did so last year.
Then there was Kobe Bryant’s homage to the past: A junior sky hook in the lane. Bryant has 14 points, all coming in the third quarter.
The Hornets have 17 second-chance points to two for the Lakers.
Hornets 61, Lakers 60 (3:39 left in third quarter)
This quarter is coming down to Chris Paul vs. Kobe Bryant.
After going scoreless in the first half, Bryant has started to pour it on, scoring 10 points in the third quarter to pull the Lakers to within one.
Paul, ever his nemesis, has 11 points and 11 assists.
Hornets 57, Lakers 52 (8:17 left in third quarter)
Bulletin: Kobe Bryant has scored. Bryant, who missed his first seven shots from the field, finally made one on attempt No. 8, hitting a 12-foot jumper with 9:28 left in the quarter.
By the way, the last time he went scoreless in a half in a playoff game was on May 25, 2004, against the Timberwolves. That was in the first half and he went on to finish with 22 points.
Hornets 49, Lakers 45 (at halftime)
Hornets center Emeka Okafor hit a jumper from the baseline just before the buzzer to give the Hornets a four-point lead at halftime.
Hornets guard Chris Paul returned to the game after getting hit in the eye by Lakers forward Ron Artest and helped lead a spurt at the end of the quarter. Paul had nine assists and four points in the first half.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had a strange half. He missed all seven of his shots from the field, missed a technical foul shot and is scoreless. Bryant does have seven assists.
Much of the offense in the first half came from two players who swapped spots on the Lakers two summers ago.
Artest hit seven of nine shots and leads the Lakers with 16 points.
Meanwhile, former Laker Trevor Ariza has 16 points for the Hornets.
Lakers 36, Hornets 33 (5:48 left in second quarter)
It's a battle of the second units and Hornets reserve center Aaron Gray has kept his team close with three baskets and seven points in the quarter.
Chris Paul is on the Hornets' bench with a cut and swelling by his right eye after getting hit by Ron Artest on a jump ball.
Artest made another shot just before the timeout and has 11 points to lead the Lakers.
Trevor Ariza has 14 points in 15 minutes on the court for the Hornets.
Lakers 25, Hornets 22 (end of first quarter)
There wasn't much defense in the first quarter: The Lakers shot 50% from the field, the Hornets shot 60%.
The Lakers' offense came from an unlikely source: Ron Artest, who led them with nine points in the quarter on four-of-six shooting. Pau Gasol was very active inside and has eight points, although he picked up his second personal foul late in the quarter.
Former Laker Trevor Ariza is generating most of the Hornets' offense, hitting six of eight shots for 12 points.
Kobe Bryant missed his first three shots and was scoreless.
Andrew Bynum also went to the bench with two fouls with about three minutes left in the quarter.
The Hornets went on an 8-0 run late in the quarter to close the gap.
Lakers 14, Hornets 6 (6:45 left in first quarter)
Pau Gasol was looking to shoot early and he took four shots in the first four minutes, hitting two of them. He leads the Lakers with six points.
Ron Artest also had a good start, hitting a three-pointer while grabbing a steal and driving down the court for a layup.
The Hornets have been mostly relying on outside shots but already have two turnovers. Chris Paul has assisted in two of their three baskets.
New Orleans Coach Monty Williams told the media before Sunday's Game 4 against the Lakers that he showed his team a video that he hoped would inspire the Hornets, who trail, 2-1, in the best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series.
Williams also said that Chris Paul jammed his left thumb Friday night in Game 3, but that would not stop the All-Star guard from playing.
During a video session at practice Saturday, Williams showed his team a clip called "Battle at Kruger National Park."
Williams said it was about a small buffalo getting taken away by some lions. A group of crocodiles battle the lions for the buffalo. Then a herd of buffalo come back and take it to the lions.
Williams said the idea was to tell his team, "Don't give up."
Williams said Paul wasn't sure when he got injured during Game 3.
Paul did score 18 points on eight-for-10 shooting in the first half and just four points on one-for-three shooting in the second half.
Williams pulled Paul out late in Game 3 to make sure the guard didn't get hurt any more.
"He looked OK yesterday in our practice," Williams said. "We were thankful that it wasn't the wrist, it wasn't in the joint."
Williams also said that Lakers big men Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are breaking rules and getting away with it.
"They're in the paint more than three seconds," Williams said. "You can put that on record. It's embarrassing."
Williams said the Hornets have had "communication" with the NBA about it.
"They looked at it," Williams said. "They agreed on some and some they haven't. They were pretty gracious about it. But again, that's not the game."
-- Broderick Turner
There have been two constants in the Lakers-Hornets series heading into Game 4 tonight at New Orleans Arena.
First, the team with the best bench production has won each game. In Game 1, which the Hornets won, their reserves poured in 39 of their 109 points. But New Orleans' bench has slipped badly since then, scoring 13 and nine points in Games 2 and 3, respectively, both Lakers victories.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have been rock steady, with their reserves accounting for 21, 21 and 20 points in the three games played.
The other constant? The Lakers' bigger front line has dominated the boards in each game and the Lakers have a 128 to 107 rebounding edge so far in the series.
Game 4 is obviously a must-win for the Hornets, but gambling site Beted.com favors the Lakers by six points.
Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest is fouled by Hornets guard Marco Belinelli during a shot in the first half Sunday evening at New Orleans Arena. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times