LOS ANGELES (NBA.com exclusive) -- There was no need for Kobe Bryant to go off for another 40 points.
And for the second game in a row, the Lakers didnt need their 7-footers, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, both still out with injuries.
The short-handed Lakers used a combination of Bryant and a strong bench performance to cruise to a 104-88 victory over the out-of-sync Hornets.
"Well, we had it a little easier tonight than I expected," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Bryant had a lot to do with it, pacing all scorers with 28 points, 26 coming in the first half. The Lakers' bench scored 46 led by Shannon Brown's impressive third-quarter stretch when hit three 3-pointers. Brown ended up scoring 13 of his 15 in that period, which was part of a 17-3 run that ended with a DJ Mbenga putback to give the Lakers a 72-45 lead.
"I was particularly proud of Shannon coming off and taking [Derek] Fisher's spot after a couple of tough calls and getting into foul trouble," Jackson said. "[Shannon] was doing the things we see him do and we anticipate he can do."
Mbenga recorded his first career double-double (10 points and 12 rebounds) and also had four blocks for the second straight game.
On the other end, the Hornets struggled, especially in the third period.
New Orleans went scoreless for nearly six minutes until Peja Stojakovic converted a technical free throw. Chris Paul's layup at the 3:21 mark was New Orleans' first basket of the quarter, which ended a string of 10 straight misses.
"They beat us in all aspects of the game tonight," said Paul, who had eight assists in the first half, but was held to a team-high 15 points and nine assists.
As much as this was a win for the Lakers (6-1), who next play on Thursday at home against the Suns, the side story might be how far the Hornets (2-5) have fallen after being one of the top Western Conference teams a few seasons ago. New Orleans, which has two games remaining on its three-game road trip, is now 0-4 on the road.
"It's tough, it's tough," Paul said. "It's early in the season, but you definitely want to show signs of improvement. This is the toughest thing I've endured in a while. We can only get better. We cant get worse. We're missing our defense and ability to score. Like I keep saying, we're capable."
If there was a positive to take out of this loss, it was Emeka Okafor shaping into form. After missing training camp and preseason with a right toe injury, Okafor recorded his sixth double-double with 10 points and a season-high 14 rebounds.
The rest of the Hornets struggled, however.
David West has yet to consistently find the form that landed him on the All-Star team. He had 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting and pulled down four rebounds. Stojakovic, who had six points and was 1-for-6 from beyond the arc, still hasnt looked right even after coming off the bench because of a balky back.
Before the game, West said the team has struggled finding a rhythm this season. It showed early. New Orleans trailed by as many as 17 in the first half. Paul, who entered Sunday fifth in the league in scoring at 28.5, was confounded by the Lakers in the first quarter, behind held to two points and one assist.
While the bulk of the blame can rest on the Okafor-Tyson Chandler swap, New Orleans coach Byron Scott doesn't think that's been the source of the Hornets' struggle early on.
"It's been the whole team and team defense," said Scott before the game. "I said first of November it was going to be 2-4 weeks before these guys start coming together and understand what [they are doing] and that they'll be on the same page.
"I'm still hoping that's the case. I just have to get them to the point where they're not thinking so much and just playing, reacting. When we get to that point, we'll be fine."
Hornets guard Devin Brown earned his first start of the season because of his "aggressiveness on defense and Morris Peterson's inability to stay in front of his opponent and hit the open jumper," Scott said.
It didnt matter against Bryant.
After torching the Grizzlies' O.J. Mayo on Friday, Bryant attacked 6-foot-5 Brown early, ripping him at midcourt in the first eight seconds of the game for a layup. He scored 10 on Brown in the first quarter, including a beautiful, backdoor alley-oop from Derek Fisher. Bryant scored 14 of the team's first 23 points, and the Lakers ended on a 10-2 run to go up 27-17 at the end of the period.
"We're a better team than that," Brown said. "We're going to have to show that going into tomorrow [against the Clippers]."
"I'm not going to say guys are panicking, but guys are definitely starting to hold each other accountable," Brown said. "We need to start talking on defense, just building trust right now."