Lakers down Hornets 100-87

By: AP
By: AP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- So much for the Lakers' brief bout with vulnerability.

Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 20, and Los Angeles beat the New Orleans Hornets 100-87 on Tuesday night in a performance that was more dominant than the final score indicated.

Using swarming defense to bottle up Chris Paul for much of the game, the Lakers stormed to a 19-point halftime lead and led by 20 after Bryant's jumper over James Posey early in the fourth quarter.

After stumbling through the beginning of their four-game road trip, the Lakers' dominance of the Hornets should serve as a warning to the defending champion Boston Celtics, who visit Los Angeles for a much-anticipated Christmas Day contest.

Paul finished with 17 points and 10 assists for the Hornets, who had won 11 of their previous 13 games and were looking to move closer to the Lakers in the Western Conference.

Los Angeles (23-5) had dropped a pair of games on its road trip and needed a fourth-quarter comeback to win at Memphis on Monday. On Tuesday, the Lakers won convincingly for the second time in two meetings with the Hornets - both times in New Orleans - and ended the Hornets' six-game home winning streak.

The testiness of this budding rivalry also manifested itself in technical fouls.

Tyson Chandler was assessed a technical in the first quarter for shoving Sasha Vujacic. Rasual Butler and Gasol were assessed double technicals for arguing in the second quarter. Posey was assessed another for standing over Bryant after knocking the Lakers' star down while clearing him out of the lane.

New Orleans had trouble stopping Bryant without fouling him. He went 12-of-15 on free throws. Gasol was 8-of-10 from the field.

Andrew Bynum scored 13 points for Los Angeles, which also got 11 points from Derek Fisher and 10 from Trevor Ariza.

Butler scored 17 points for New Orleans. Morris Peterson added 16 and David West 13 on 5-of-15 shooting.

Bryant went to the bench only 4:10 into the game with two fouls, but the Hornets could not take advantage. The Lakers maintained a slim lead most of the quarter, going up 22-16 after an 8-0 run that included Vujacic's 3 and Gasol's basket inside as he was fouled.

The Hornets responded with a 8-0 run to take a 26-24 lead on Peterson's running hook, but the Lakers began to take command soon after when Ariza hit a 3 from the corner and Bynum followed his own miss with a dunk. After Paul's free throw cut the Lakers' lead to 29-28, Los Angeles went on a 9-0 run that included Fisher's tough floater in the lane over Chandler and a pair of jumpers by Ariza.

Later in the quarter, Bryant drove through a crowd for a double pump reverse dunk while the overflow crowd of 18,405 gasped as if collectively punched in the gut. The Hornets looked a little wobbly as well, turning the ball over five times in the period while shooting 5-of-13.

The Lakers, who had eight turnovers in the opening quarter, didn't lose the ball once in the second and scored on 16 of 21 possessions.

In the final minute of the period, Bryant ran down the clock while drawing a triple team to the right of the foul line, then passed to Gasol in the corner for a rare 3-point attempt by the 7-foot center. The shot dropped straight through (only the 18th 3 of his career), giving the Lakers a 56-37 lead at halftime.

Notes:@ Hornets swingman Peja Stojakovic missed his third straight game with back soreness. Backup point guard Antonio Daniels (knee) also sat out for New Orleans. ... Paul, who owns the NBA record for consecutive regular season games with a steal at 108, had five steals in the first quarter. ... Phil Jackson got his 999th career victory in 1,422 games as a coach. Should Jackson reach 1,000 victories in the next 11 games, he would become the fastest coach to do so, passing Pat Riley, who did it in 1,434 games.


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