Notebook: Lakers 104, Hornets 96



Posted Apr 10, 2013 2:03 AM

Dan Arritt, for NBA.com

THE FACTS: The Lakers had no choice but to find a way to win Tuesday night. Clinging to their playoff hopes by a thread in the home stretch of a season that promised so much more last fall, Kobe Bryant once again dug deep into his reserve tank and scored 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Lakers to a 104-96 victory that lifted them back into eighth place in the Western Conference standings.

THE STAT: Many probably thought they'd seen the best Bryant has to offer in a fourth quarter when these teams met March 6 in New Orleans. Bryant scored 18 points in the final quarter of that game to help the Lakers rally back from a 25-point hole. But he outdid himself again Tuesday night, shooting 7-for-11 in the final 12 minutes while again lifting the Lakers onto his shoulders. Bryant also joined LeBron James as the only players in the last two years with at least 30 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals in a game.

QUOTABLE: "You couldn't even put Saran Wrap on him."

-- Hornets coach Monty Williams on guarding Bryant in the final quarter

TURNING POINT: Bryant scored L.A.'s first 14 points of the fourth quarter but it still wasn't enough to shake the pesky Hornets, who calmly tied the score at 84 on a basket by Anthony Davis with 6:01 left. Antawn Jamison then stepped up and scored five unanswered points for the Lakers. Bryant made four straight free throws to push the lead to eight with 2:35 left and New Orleans was out of comebacks, failing to get any closer than five the rest of the way.

HOT: Lost in the flurry of Bryant's fourth quarter were excellent games from L.A.'s big men. Pau Gasol had 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots, his third double-double in the last four games and his highest-scoring effort since Feb. 3. Dwight Howard added 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting and picked up two of his team's eight blocked shots. Hornets points guard Greivis Vasquez had 11 points and 11 assists, the 30th time this season he has reached double digits in assists after reaching that mark just six times last season.

QUOTABLE III: "When the bigs are doing their thing in the paint and [Bryant] is hitting his shots, it makes it tough."

-- Howard

NOT: Earl Clark's days as a starter were probably numbered anyway with the return Tuesday of Metta World Peace, who missed six games after undergoing knee surgery, but Clark didn't help his cause by going scoreless in 25 minutes, missing all three of his field-goal attempts. World Peace, who had surgery 12 days earlier, came off the bench in his return and managed four points in 15 minutes.

GOOD MOVE: The Lakers had just stretched their lead to 91-86 on two free throws by Bryant with just over three minutes remaining when they suddenly took their time bringing the ball up court. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, seeing the shot clock wind down to 17 seconds, called timeout before L.A. was whistled for an eight-second violation. That allowed the Lakers to regroup and resume pulling away from the Hornets.

BAD MOVE: The Lakers have a tough game awaiting them in Portland on Wednesday night and New Orleans entered the game 15th in the West. They couldn't shake the Hornets, however, forcing Bryant to play 42 minutes and Gasol to play 39, the kind of strain that can come back to haunt veteran players in the second game of a back-to-back.

NOTABLE: The Lakers have not won games on consecutive days this season, something they've accomplished every other season in franchise history. .... Eighth place in the West is the final playoff spot that has yet to be clinched. ... Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson sat across from the Lakers' bench. ... With point guard Steve Nash missing his fourth straight game with hip and hamstring injuries, all five starters for the Lakers stepped up with at least four assists.

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Wednesday @ Portland, Friday vs. Golden State, Sunday vs. San Antonio. For the Hornets, Wednesday @ Sacramento, Friday vs. Clippers, Sunday vs. Dallas.