After a shaky stretch, Lakers’ reserves get it together

They had been asked to protect an 11-point lead entering the fourth quarter, to give the starters a rest, to perform better than they had in recent games.

But the Lakers’ reserves could not hold it together, struggling to maintain the lead they had been given.

Even when they let the lead slip to six points in the fourth, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson didn’t yank any of his bench players during a timeout at the 7:51 mark.

Instead, Jackson left reserves Matt Barnes, Luke Walton, Shannon Brown and Steve Blake in the game along with starter Andrew Bynum to clean up their own mess.

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And for the most part they did, going inside to Bynum to help lead the way during the Lakers’ 102-84 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night at Staples Center.

“I guess that was to see how we were going to respond,” Brown said. “That’s good. That’s why we love Coach, for things like that and letting us go out and play and get it together. I think we did and ‘Drew did a great job sticking with it too. We went to him in the fourth quarter.”

As a group, the Lakers’ reserves shot 11 for 26 from the field and scored 23 points.

Lamar Odom was the most solid in the group, scoring eight points on four-for-six shooting. He also had five rebounds and four assists.

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“They had open shots,” Jackson said about his reserves. “They worked the ball the right way.”

The fourth quarter began so well for the reserves.

Brown made an 11-foot jumper and a 23-foot three-pointer, giving the Lakers a 12-point lead.

But then they couldn’t get any stops and the offense dried up.

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When the Suns got to within 78-72, the fans began to stir.

After a timeout, the Lakers went inside to Bynum.

Bynum made the first of two free throws.

When he missed the second free throw, Barnes stepped in and tipped the ball in for a basket.

Walton fed Bynum for a dunk and Blake fed Bynum for a shot, giving the Lakers a 13-point lead.

Given a reprieve, the reserves came through for the Lakers.

“Playing hard is no problem,” said Brown, who had eight points on four-for-10 shooting. “It’s just playing as one. It’s not like we’re not doing it on purpose. We’ve just got some things to fine-tune.”