Lakers vs. New Orleans: Lakers even series with 87-78 victory over the Hornets
Little of that will be remembered in the long term after the Lakers earned a split of the opening two games of their playoff series against the Hornets by winning, 87-78, on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Though Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 17 points and 11 rebounds, the emotional catalyst was Lamar Odom, who had 16 points off the bench, punctuating his selection the NBA’s sixth man of the year. That award was announced Tuesday.
Game 3 of the series will be on Friday at New Orleans, with Game 4 there on Sunday.
Game 2 was anything but easy at the start as the Lakers once trailed by nine points in the first quarter. Former Laker Trevor Ariza had a game-high 22 points for the Hornets, and point guard Chris Paul finished with 20 points and nine assists, well off his dazzling Game 1 performance of 33 points and 14 assists.
Kobe Bryant didn’t reach double figures until late in the fourth quarter, finishing with 11 points, and seemed to find an extra level of ire after he received a technical foul in the fourth quarter. Pau Gasol continued to struggle from the field, going two for 10 for eight points.
But the Laker reserves made the difference, outscoring the Hornet bench, 27-13. In Game 1, the New Orleans bench had the decided edge, 39-21.
Lakers 72, Hornets 59, (7:04 remaining)
Apparently, the Lakers reserves must have heard the talk.
How they were outplayed by the Hornets’ bench in Game 1. They had to listen to all that and then some starting on Sunday night and continuing through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
They helped extend the Lakers' lead in the fourth quarter. Look at it this way: Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes had combined for 22 points, compared to 11 from Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant.
That’s what everyone thought would happen, right?
Lakers 63, Hornets 56 (End of third quarter)
The Lakers got some help from the Hornets in the final minute and a half of the third quarter when Aaron Gray missed two free throws and Willie Green had turnovers on back-to-back possessions.
But Chris Paul cut the Lakers' lead to seven with a three-pointer with 1.4 seconds remaining.
The Lakers were keeping Paul in check, at least compared to Game 1. He had 15 points, six assists and three rebounds through three quarters.
Still, the Lakers managed to hang on despite a combined 11 points from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Gasol is two-for-10 shooting from the field with six points and three rebounds.
Andrew Bynum has 15 points and eight rebounds, Ron Artest has 12 points and Lamar Odom has added 12 points off the bench.
Lakers 57, Hornets 49 (4:00 remaining, third quarter)
This suddenly turned into an ugly-looking game, more typical of a run-of-the-mill night in December rather than a key playoff game.
About halfway through the third quarter, the Lakers and Hornets combined for nine points. Yes, nine points.
In any event, the crowd seems fully engaged. Even if the teams are not.
Lakers 47, Hornets 41 (end of first half)
The Lakers played very good defense in the second quarter, swarming all over the New Orleans Hornets.
The Lakers held the Hornets to 18 second-quarter points.
But Chris Paul made a three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to give the Hornets momentum going into the second half. Paul made his shot with Kobe Bryant trying to defend him.
Paul had nine points and five assists in the first half.
Andrew Bynum had 12 points and four rebounds in the first half.
Pau Gasol had six points and one rebound.
Bryant had just three points on one-for-four shooting in the first half.
The Hornets shot 44.4% from the field in the first half.
Lakers 35, Hornets 31 (5:43 left in the second quarter.
Andrew Bynum played hard and with passion in the early part of the second quarter.
After Bynum scored down low and was fouled by Emeka Okafor, Bynum pumped his fist twice.
Bynum had 10 points on five-for-seven shooting.
Okafor had three fouls and had to take a seat on the bench.
Lakers 29, Hornets 29 (8:13 left in second quarter)
The Lakers had too many turnovers early in the second quarter and that allowed the Hornets to tie the score.
Matt Barnes scored twice and Lamar Odomscored once early for the Lakers.
Lakers 23, Hornets 23 (end of first quarter)
Lamar Odom gave the Lakers a big lift in the first quarter, scoring six points on three-for-four shooting.
Odom, the NBA's sixth man of the year, was aggressive as soon as he entered the game with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
Kobe Bryant didn't score in the first, missing his only shot.
The Lakers shot 43.5% in the first quarter.
The Hornets shot 56.3% from the field.
Hornets 22, Lakers 16 (2:30 left in first quarter)
The Lakers trailed by as many as nine points, 20-11, late in the first quarter.
Hornets center Aaron Gray, who was questionable because he sprained his right ankle during in Game 1, scored on his first shot and he had four rebounds in eight minutes.
Through 2:30 of the first quarter, the Lakers shot only 36.8% from the field, while the Hornets shot 64.3%.
Hornets 14, Lakers 11 (5:19 left in first quarter)
The first adjustment the Lakers made was having Kobe Bryant defend against New Orleans point guard Chris Paul.
That left Derek Fisher on 6-foot-5 Hornets guard Marco Belinelli.
The Lakers also went inside to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum early.
Gasol scored two points on one-for-four shooting in the first several minutes.
Bynum had four points on two-for-three shooting.
Paul had six points, on two-for-two shooting, and one assist in the early going.
After practice Saturday, Coach Phil Jackson said the Lakers' focus was "so-so" heading into Game 1 of the first-round Western Conference playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets.
And it showed in the Lakers' play in their loss in Game 1 on Sunday at Staples Center.
Jackson was asked what his team's focus was like after two days to practice and prepare for Game 2 on Wednesday night against the Hornets at Staples Center.
"Our team focus is back in the right spot, I believe," Jackson said. "It felt right today and we felt like we were attentive and we're industrious too."
Jackson also said Steve Blake, who has been out for a week while recovering from chickenpox, will play.
Blake will be needed to help slow New Orleans point guard Chris Paul.
The Hornets said backup center Aaron Gray will play despite spraining his right ankle in Game 1.
-- Broderick Turner
Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant defends Hornets point guard Chris Paul in the first half of Game 2 on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters