The Lakers won their third-straight game on Tuesday night, defeating the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center, 111-106.
After building a sizable double-digit lead, the Lakers eased off a little too early. The Hornets are a young, energetic, well-coached team. They kept at the Lakers, getting hot from outside — closing to within a single point, 102-101, with 2:05 left in the game.
The Lakers responded with a 9-5 run, highlighted by a Steve Nash three-pointer that pushed the Lakers’ lead up to six with 1:21 left. Both Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison hit important shots in the last two minutes.
Dwight Howard finished with 24 points but just four rebounds. Defensively Howard was a presence, blocking four shots and collecting five steals.
Clark was a major factor, scoring 20 points with 12 rebounds. Coach Mike D'Antoni relied on the younger forward over the veteran Pau Gasol who played just 21 1/2 minutes. Gasol scored only seven points but had seven assists.
Kobe Bryant scored just 14 but dished 11 assists with eight rebounds. Bryant’s 39 assists over the last three games is a career-high.
The Hornets were led by 25 from Eric Gordon. Greivis Vasquez had 15 points and 15 assists. New Orleans shot 42.4% from the field. They drop to 15-30 on the season. The Lakers shot 49.4%, dishing 34 assists on 39 baskets.
The Lakers climb to 20-25 as they prepare to embark on a lengthy road trip starting Wednesday night in Phoenix against the Suns.
Lakers 83 - Hornets 73 (end of third quarter)
The Hornets rallied in the third, closing the gap to just four points (72-68). The Lakers responded, ending the quarter on an 11-5 run, up 10 after three.
Kobe Bryant scored 10 points, dished 10 assists and collected seven rebounds, three short of a triple-double. Over the past 2 3/4 games, Bryant has a stunning 38 assists.
The Lakers shot 51.7% from the field as a team but struggled to hit free throws (12-21).
The Hornets were led by 22 from Eric Gordon while shooting 40.6% from the field as a team. Greivis Vasquez had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.
Dwight Howard led all scorers with 24 points.
Lakers 54 - Hornets 42 (halftime)
The Lakers jumped on the Hornets in the second quarter, scoring the first 10 points – 17 in a row going back to the first quarter.
Dwight Howard had 17 points on 6-8 shooting, making 5-6 from the line. The Lakers had 17 assists on 20 field goals, shooting 50% from the field and 43.8% from three.
Pau Gasol led the Lakers with six assists, followed by Bryant with five.
The Hornets shot 34.8% from the field, led by Eric Gordon's 18 points. New Orleans hit 6-11 from three, keeping them from being blown out in the first half.
Point guard Greivis Vasquez had seven assists for the Hornets.
Lakers 25 - Hornets 24 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers erased a six-point deficit to the New Orleans Hornets with a 7-0 run to close the first quarter, 25-24.
Eric Gordon led all scorers with 12 points on 4-6 shooting but the rest of the Hornets shot 6-17 35.3%. Dwight Howard had 10 for the Lakers who shot 52.4% as a team.
Kobe Bryant dished five early assists. In his two previous games, Bryant had 14 in both — one shy of his career high.
Steve Blake made a return to the court after missing months with abdominal and groin injuries.
The Lakers (19-25) host the New Orleans Hornets (15-29) on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The Hornets have struggled this year but they're a dangerous team, especially with a healthy Eric Gordon. The Lakers have won two in a row and have started to look like a capable basketball team.
It's simply a game the Lakers cannot afford to lose as they try to climb back into the top eight in the Western Conference.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers at Thunder.