Lakers vs. Hornets Game 6: Lakers 98, Hornets 80
Either way, the Lakers will be the well-rested host for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series against the Mavericks or Trail Blazers. They got the weekend off by defeating the Hornets, 98-80, in Game 6 on Thursday night at New Orleans Arena, winning the series, 4-2.
"It was huge," center Andrew Bynum said in his on-court TV interview of finishing the series in six games.
Game 1 of the next round will be Monday night at Staples Center.
To get there, it took three and a half quarters of hard work and tight defense -- the latter part of the fourth was mostly garbage time. The Lakers heroes were many: Bynum was a force early at both ends, finishing with a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds.
To get an idea of how dominant Bynum was in that department: Pau Gasol and Ron Artest combined for 12 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant and his sore left ankle managed a game-high 24 points, going six for 16 from the field. He hit all 10 of his free throws. Gasol had 16 points and Lamar Odom added 14 off the bench.
Hornets point guard Chris Paul, who vowed to come out guns blazing in Game 6, did just the opposite, starting quietly and he didn’t get the supporting help needed and looked dejected on the bench in the final seconds.
Paul got into double-digits late, finishing with 10 points and 11 assists, while power forward Carl Landry led the Hornets with 19 points.
Good thing Kobe Bryant won't have to be a 40-minute man.
Coach Phil Jackson didn't rule that out before Game 6, saying the Lakers would have to do what was necessary in this elimination game.
In the fourth quarter, Bryant was chilling on the bench, supporting the effort of the second unit. He has 22 points in nearly 28 minute of action.
But Bryant came back into the game with the other starters with 5:23 left despite the big lead.
Lakers 69, Hornets 57 (end of third quarter)
The Lakers are within one quarter of a second-round playoff series against Dallas or Portland, taking their biggest lead of the game at New Orleans Arena.
Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant combined for 23 of the Lakers' 29 points in the quarter. Meanwhile, Chris Paul continued to have a quiet game for the Hornets, committing four turnovers and scoring a mere four points.
Jason Smith picked up a flagrant foul one when he fouled Bryant with 2.6 seconds left in the quarter.
Lakers 54, Hornets 46 (3:44 left in third quarter)
Tranquility was interrupted when Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, displeased with a couple of quick baskets by the Hornets, immediately called a timeout. Jackson had a few choice words for Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol.
Wonder if that will be addressed in the next episode of Lamar's reality show?
Lakers 52, Hornets 42 (5:44 left in third quarter)
The Lakers missed their first two shots of the third quarter and then everything started going right for them.
Emeka Okafor got into foul trouble, picking up his fourth with 7:20 left in the third. Pau Gasol started finding his range, and the Hornets kept on turning the ball over. They have 11 turnovers to compared to only three by the Lakers.
Lakers 40, Hornets 34 (halftime)
The Lakers went on a 14-8 spurt in the final six minutes of the second quarter to take a six-point lead at halftime.
It was a defensive battle, with the two teams combining for the fewest points in the first half of the series.
Lamar Odom had his best half of the series with four points, five assists and five rebounds. Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 12 points.
Kobe Bryant shot poorly, missing six of 10 shots, but his shot clock-beating three-pointer gave the Lakers a 37-32 lead with less than three minutes to go in the half. Bryant has nine points.
Hornets point guard Chris Paul picked up two personal fouls early and didn't score until the final minute of the half.
The Lakers held the Hornets to 41% shooting. Carl Landry leads the Hornets with eight points.
Lakers 26, Hornets 26 (5:48 left in second quarter)
Lamar Odom is playing like a point guard and has four assists and four boards off the bench as he was running the offense while Kobe Bryant rested.
Bryant returned just before the latest timeout.
Andrew Bynum picked up his second personal foul while Chris Paul was driving into the lane; Bynum went to the bench and Pau Gasol replaced him.
The Hornets closed the gap thanks to six points in this quarter by reserve guard Jarrett Jack.
Lakers 24, Hornets 22 (8:26 left in second quarter)
The subs have come in but Andrew Bynum's size and offense is dominating the paint for the Lakers. Bynum scored 12 points in his first 12 minutes on the court; he also has seven rebounds.
Chris Paul was scoreless in the first quarter and has two fouls. His backup, Jarrett Jack, came in and scored on a floater and drew a foul on Bynum.
Lakers 18, Hornets 16 (end of first quarter)
In the lowest-scoring opening quarter of the series, the Lakers led by Andrew Bynum's six points, have a two-point lead after one quarter.
Kobe Bryant's sore ankle seemed to loosen up as the quarter progressed; he hit his last two shots and has four points.
The Lakers have done a good job pressing the Hornets and New Orleans had five turnovers in the first quarter.
Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor all have four points for New Orleans.
Hornets 8, Lakers 6 (6:28 left in first quarter)
Kobe Bryant has missed his first two jump shots and is hobbling some on his sprained left ankle. Bryant is guarding Marco Belinelli instead of the quicker Trevor Ariza.
Hornets center Emeka Okafor is off to a good start, with four points and one blocked shot so far.
Andrew Bynum leads the Lakers with four points.
Both teams are shooting poorly: the Lakers are shooting 20% from the field, the Hornets 33%.
After losing Game 5, Hornets Coach Monty Williams complained about the Lakers manhandling his team. It was spin control, trying to tilt the refereeing in his favor for Thursday’s Game 6 and to aid his struggling center Emeka Okafor.
So far, Andrew Bynum has totally outplayed Okafor. Bynum is averaging 14.6 points and 10 rebounds a game to Okafor’s paltry 7.4 points and 5.2 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul has been dazzling. But in the Hornets' two wins he’s shouldered even more of the burden than usual. In Game 1, Paul’s shooting and playmaking accounted for 25 of his team’s 41 field goals; in their Game 4 victory he helped produce 22 of their 33 field goals.
Obviously, the Lakers want to contain Paul -- at least a little -- and get Okafor in early foul trouble.
The gambling site Betus.com favors the Lakers by 5 1/2 points.
Photo: Hornets forward Trevor Ariza goes for a steal on an inbounds pass to Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in the first half of Game 6 on Thursday night at New Orleans Arena. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times