THE FACTS: Kobe Bryant and the Lakers appeared to be hobbled, defeated in the first quarter.
It all changed in one leap.
In what will surely be played over and over on YouTube and likely wind up on a poster above a kid's bed, Bryant took two steps, soared above the rim and posterized Emeka Okafor.
What bad ankle?
The Lakers behind that electrifying play and a balanced scoring effort stung the Hornets to take a decisive 106-90 victory Tuesday at Staples Center to go up 3-2 in the series.
When winning Game 5, the Lakers are 22-4 all-time as they hope to close out the series Thursday at New Orleans.
Six Lakers finished in double figures with Bryant leading the way, scoring a team-high 19 points despite a sprained left ankle he injured back in Game 4. Pau Gasol had his best game in Los Angeles. After combining to shoot 4-for-19 in Games 1 and 2 and averaging a team-worst 39.5 percent from the field in the series, Gasol tallied 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Andrew Bynum logged his third double-double of the series with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hornets led by as many as nine in the first quarter, but they needed more help outside of Trevor Ariza, who had a game-high 22 points, Marco Belinelli (21) and Chris Paul, who added 20 points and 12 assists (eight came in the first quarter).
This contest didn't look good for the Lakers early. Bryant wasn't Bryant in the first quarter. He got burned off the dribble by Ariza. Then Willie Green did the same. On a Hornets' fastbreak instead of stepping infront of Paul, Bryant went for the reach. He did that twice. Bryant didn't take a shot in the first quarter and scored only one point as the Hornets took a commanding 32-23 behind a blistering 81.3-percent shooting effort.
It was the Lakers second unit in the second period that breathed life back into the two-time defending champions. Shannon Brown rattled in his only two baskets of the game, back-to-back threes to get Los Angeles back into the game.
Then Bryant's play pushed the Lakers over the top.
At the 3:32 mark of the second quarter, Bryant zoomed past Ariza at the top of the key, launched off both feet and posterized Okafor with a vicious one-handed dunk. Bryant went on to score 12 in the quarter as the Lakers led at halftime 54-51.
Bryant recorded another electric dunk when he went around the Hornets defense and reared back and threw down a sick lefty smash on Carl Landry. The Lakers started the third quarter making eight of their first 10 shots. They led by as many as 11 in the third and finished the quarter up, 79-72. A 10-2 run to start the final period was all the Lakers needed as they cruised the rest of the way.
QUOTABLE: "It looked like he was going to challenge me at the end. I accepted the challenge."
-- Kobe Bryant on his dunk over Okafor.
QUOTABLE II: "Kobe was awesome. I don't know what else to say...It was surprising. I was shocked to see (the dunk)...when I seen it, I was like whoa."
-- Ron Artest on Bryant's throwdown.
QUOTABLE III: "That's what he does. All this talk about his ankle, did it look like his ankle was hurting? OK then. See that's why I don't even get into all that."
-- Hornets coach Monty Williams on Bryant.
QUOTABLE IV: "It got the crowd going. It seemed to spark him...I think that was a big statement."
-- Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Bryant's dunk.
THE STAT: 20 -- The advantage the Lakers had on second-chance points (22-2).
TURNING POINT: The start of the second quarter was the difference maker. Lamar Odom, who had an off game with 13 points on 12 shots, started the Lakers off with a basket and then Brown made two straight 3-pointers. Matt Barnes had a putback to cap the 10-0 run that put Los Angeles up 33-32 lead. From that point, the Lakers never found themselves down by more than two points.
QUOTABLE V: "We played young. Our legs. Our energy. Hungry. Young people, hungry."
-- Ron Artest on the difference in this game.
QUOTABLE VI: "We feed off of each other for sure. I think he was really trying to be patient, physically...he was really efficient and he played a really smart game...hopefully his foot responds well tonight and tomorrow. Traveling makes injuries tougher."
-- Derek Fisher on Bryant.
HOT: This was a tossup between the Lakers starting five and the play of Ariza and Belinelli. All of the Lakers starters finished in double figures and shot 50 percent or better from the field.
Ariza recorded a standout game, tying his career high in points for the playoffs. A bonus for New Orleans was that Ariza found his touch from deep. He connected on 5-for-8 from distance after shooting 20 percent (2-for-10) in the previous four contests. Belinelli also woke up from his poor play. Coming into Tuesday, he was shooting 29.7 percent from the field in the series. In Game 5, he went 8-for-14 from the field, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
NOT: The Hornets bench. Outside of Willie Green, who had eight points, the rest of the bench contributed seven points. The Lakers bench outscored the Hornets' 29-14.
QUOTABLE VII: "We don't have another game to fall back on. This is all or nothing for us."
-- Chris Paul on what could be the end of the Hornets season.
NOTABLE: A lot of press has surrounded Bryant and why he never underwent an MRI after he initially sprained his ankle on Sunday. He shined some light on his decision after the game. "Well, I was moving OK," he said. "I didn't feel like it was broken. And even if it (were) it wouldn't have mattered. I would have played anyway. So it (would have been) a waste of time. I would've had to go all the way up there and do that and then sit in 405 traffic for two hours." ... Once a bad boy of the league, Artest was awarded the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his outstanding service and dedication to the community. His work included promoting awareness of mental health through the raffling of his 2010 Championship ring and appearing before Congress in support of Mental Health In Schools Act. The annual award was voted on by 150 writers from the professional Basketball Writers Association. Artest joins a prestigious circle of previous winners, which include Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and David Robinson. ... Landry, who has been awesome this postseason, had an uncharacteristic game against the Lakers in Game 5. He had just eight points in the game on 3-for-7 shooting. He wasn't in foul trouble either.
UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Thursday @ New Orleans.