Hornets.com postgame: Lakers 111, Hornets 106
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Lakers (20-25), Hornets (15-30)
It was over when… Kobe Bryant drained two free throws, allowing the Lakers to breathe a big sigh of relief after the Hornets nearly pulled off an improbable fourth-quarter comeback. Bryant’s foul shots made it 111-104 with 5.4 seconds to go. New Orleans previously trailed 98-80 with just 5 ½ minutes left, but used a barrage of perimeter shots to get within 102-101. The Lakers scored the next five critical points, however, en route to sealing their third straight win. The Hornets dropped to 1-1 on their five-game Western Conference road trip and will play at Utah on Wednesday. "(The Lakers) won the game, but I feel good about the way we played in the first, third and fourth quarters," said Hornets head coach Monty Williams, whose team was outscored 29-18 in the second. "We certainly fought the whole game, and our young guys grew up tonight. We had a chance to win. We did have the kind of effort and intensity in the second half that we need."
Hornets MVP: Eric Gordon continued his recent trend of big first-half offensive production, scoring 18 points prior to intermission, including five three-pointers. He finished the game with 25 points, highlighted by 6-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. He was also 5-for-5 on free throws, helping Gordon tally his team-best 25 points on just 12 total field-goal attempts.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Like his team, Ryan Anderson ignited in the fourth quarter offensively, racking up 11 final-period points. He had struggled to locate his shooting touch over the first three quarters, but his late push netted him final statistics of 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting (3-for-7 on treys). Austin Rivers also was on the floor for big chunks of the crucial final-quarter stretch. The rookie guard was next in line in bench scoring with nine points, all in the second half.
The buzz on… center. After moving to a reserve role in Phoenix following the Suns’ acquisition of Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez came to New Orleans in the 2012 offseason and has earned a greatly expanded role. The 7-footer, who has started all 45 games this season for the Hornets, is responding with the best season of his five-year career. The Stanford University product has improved in several categories, but most notably in his offensive production. Lopez has more than doubled his scoring average from his final season in Arizona, going from 5.4 to 11.1 points per game. An offensive afterthought for the majority of his previous four NBA years, Lopez has been a go-to option during stretches of some games, highlighted by a 29-point effort at Orlando on Dec. 26. Lopez’s primary backup, Jason Smith, has battled nagging injuries since training camp, ultimately forcing him to sit out from Dec. 12-28. Smith has been a very effective reserve in January, often called on to close out victories in the fourth quarter. After shooting in the low 40s from the field early in the season, Smith is at 55.3 percent this month. When he’s been near 100 percent health-wise, the Colorado State product is one of the league’s better frontcourt reserves.