New Orleans/Oklahoma City 113, Los Angeles 103

OKLAHOMA CITY, Jan. 20 (AP) -- With their leading scorer back, the New Orleans Hornets proved they can keep up with one of the NBA's top teams.

David West had 26 points and 12 rebounds in his second game back from an injury, and Rasual Butler outshot Kobe Bryant down the stretch to lead the Hornets to a 113-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.

"Everybody made plays when their number was called,'' said West, New Orleans' top scorer last season.

Bryant overcame a slow start to finish with 23 points, but it was Butler who came up with the big plays in crunch time.

Butler gave New Orleans a 102-96 lead when he came around a screen and drilled a 3-pointer over Bryant from the top of the key. Bryant answered at the other end, but then got blocked by Butler on a drive to the basket the next time the Lakers had the ball.

Butler rushed back downcourt for a 3-pointer from the right side, and after a missed 3-pointer by Bryant, West nailed a jumper from the left side for a 107-99 Hornets lead.

Bryant tipped in his own miss on Los Angeles' next trip to cut the deficit to six, but that was as close as the Lakers could get.

"They just hit big shots. You're going to have games sometimes where guys just play well and they just outplay you. That's what they did tonight,'' Bryant said. "They outplayed us. They deserved to win.

"They made they hustle plays when they needed to, they made the shots when they needed to and it was just a great effort for them.''

After Bryant blocked Desmond Mason's shot, West rescued the Hornets with a jumper for a 111-103 lead, and Bobby Jackson provided the finishing touches by stripping Bryant and racing downcourt for a layup.

"When you're playing against a guy like that, you can't have him attacking you the entire night,'' West said. "You've got to do what you can to attack him.''

West racked up his second straight double-double after missing the past two months with an injured right elbow, and Butler added 20 points. The Hornets had six players in double figures to win for the first time in 11 games when they allowed 100 points or more.

Entering the game, the Lakers ranked fifth in scoring (104.8 ppg) while the Hornets (89.9) were last.

"You've just got to be able to get good possessions down the stretch,'' West said. "We had possessions where we're coming out and don't get shots two or three times down the floor and turn the ball over. You're not going to beat good teams doing that.

"Tonight, we were able to get good shots. Even if they didn't fall, we were able to get shots and make them have to fight for rebounds and get into their sets.''

Maurice Evans scored a career-high 23 points for Los Angeles, and Smush Parker added 13.

Bryant scored 20 points in the second half after going 0-for-3 in the opening half with three free throws. It was the second time this month that Bryant didn't make a field goal in the first half. He also didn't make a basket before halftime in a 123-104 victory over Denver on Jan. 5, when he finished with a season-low eight points and 10 assists.

"I was just reading the flow of the game, just trying get things out of the rhythm of the offense, catching and shooting and doing things like that. The first half isn't a situation where I have to get the ball and start attacking and doing those sort of things,'' Bryant said.

The Lakers host Golden State in their next game Monday - the one-year anniversary of Bryant's career-best 81-point performance last season against Toronto.

With four reserves and Luke Walton on the floor, the Lakers scored six straight points to take an 88-87 lead on Jordan Farmar's jumper from the left baseline. It was the only time Los Angeles had the lead in the second half, as the Hornets answered with seven points in a row to take a 94-88 edge on West's tip-in of a miss by Linton Johnson.

"Not to say anything against this team, but we shot ourselves in the foot all night,'' said Evans, who had about 25 family members travel down Interstate 35 from Wichita, Kan.

West scored 10 points in the Hornets' 20-7 run at the end of the first half, including two free throws that put New Orleans up 59-51 at the break.

The Hornets added seven straight points for a 66-53 lead early in the second half before Los Angeles started coming back.

Bryant had eight points during a 12-3 response for the Lakers that ended when Bryant was called for a technical foul after finishing a fast break with a layup.

Bryant then turned to his teammates, setting up Parker's 3-pointer from the right wing that closed the deficit to 78-77 before missing a driving layup that would've put the Lakers ahead.

The loss continued a frustrating trend for Los Angeles, which has also lost on the road against sub-.500 teams Charlotte and Memphis in the past month.

"We're still in a great position,'' Evans said. "We're still ahead of the curve, but it's like we're fighting and fighting and then we shoot ourselves in the foot, it makes it difficult and take two steps back. We've got to be more focused and stay together.''

Notes: The Lakers got to the midway point of their season with a 26-15 record. "We're happy. We'd like to have the best record in the league, but we don't,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We know we are not there yet as a basketball club, but to be in the top five or six clubs in the league, that feels good for us.'' ... Jackson said C Kwame Brown (sprained left ankle) and F Lamar Odom might "perhaps'' practice soon but he wouldn't go as far as to say they would practice or play next week. "We can't throw that expectation out there,'' he said. ... Attendance was 19,329, the seventh sellout in Oklahoma City this season. ... Los Angeles made its first eight shots to take a 17-10 lead.

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