New Orleans pulled within a possession of overcoming a 21-point fourth quarter deficit, but Kobe Bryant had an answer.
After the Hornets (4-3) cut a huge disadvantage to 83-80, the 2007-08 MVP drilled a difficult three-pointer against the shot clock, with 08 NBA Finals nemesis James Posey in his face. Bryants pivotal trey gave the Lakers (7-0) a six-point edge with 1:08 left, finally turning back the Hornets frantic comeback attempt.
The Laker superstars back-breaking trey will appear on all of the highlight shows and be viewed as the shot that ruined the Hornets night, but the hosts didnt lose this game in the fourth quarter. No, they lost this one in the first half falling behind 51-30 after a season-worst shooting performance. New Orleans went 12-for-43 (28 percent) prior to intermission.
We got off to a bad start, Hornets coach Byron Scott said. I dont know if (it was because) we were anxious or tight.
Things looked extremely bleak when New Orleans fell behind 71-50 through three quarters, but the Hornets went on a 30-12 run, partly behind Chris Pauls superb 16-point fourth quarter.
Im happy with the way we continued to fight, Scott said of the rally. But every time we had a great opportunity, we would commit a turnover or have a stupid foul. (New Orleans finished with 17 turnovers, eight more than Los Angeles).
Other developments from Wednesday's defeat at the New Orleans Arena:
Scott was asked by a reporter if hes concerned by the Hornets three defeats in the past five games, including two losses on their home floor. Scott countered that he isnt overly worried, partly because much of the clubs recent struggles can be ascribed to simply shooting poorly. Particularly in the first half Wednesday, New Orleans missed multiple open attempts that normally result in buckets.
Thats what killing us the last four or five games, Scott said. Were not able to knock down shots right now. Were getting a lot of good looks.
The Hornets wing starters, Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson, combined to go 0-for-12 in the first half vs. the Lakers. They finished 3-for-18 total from the floor.
Backup point guard Mike James minutes have been limited throughout the first two weeks of the season, but Wednesday was his season-low in playing time. James played six minutes in the first half but did not get back on the floor in the second half. Devin Brown one of the options Scott has discussed at backup point guard helped spark the fourth-quarter comeback. Brown played the final 10 minutes.
Obviously were going to have to make some changes with some of the guys coming off the bench, Scott said. I liked what I saw from Devin. His defense and energy was great, and he gives us another ballhandler.
Scott said he will evaluate the situation during Thursdays practice. Among the remainder of the subs, Rasual Butler and Julian Wright each made cameos in the first half. Hilton Armstrong played the 14:40 of the game when Tyson Chandler was not on the floor.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
On defending Kobe Bryant on his clutch three-point shot: You cant defend much better than what Posey did. Pose was right in his face, and that is what great players do, they make big shots. You have to give Kobe a lot of credit because that was a big time shot."
On the first half: We just spotted them too many points. We werent able to get anything going offensively in the first half. It felt like defensively we were doing an OK job; we just didnt have any rhythm offensively.
On the game: We know the Lakers are a good basketball team. Theyre not going to beat themselves. We have to make sure we come in and make quality shots. We knew we were getting good looks in the first half, we just werent able to put them in.
On turnovers in the game: The Lakers have a very good defense. We just made some crucial turnovers. They scored 26 points off of our turnovers. Were usually more careful with the ball than that.
On the comeback in the fourth quarter: We continued to fight. But the Lakers are the defending Western Conference champions. You cant dig yourself a hole against them. Well learn from it, and well learn not to put ourselves in that type of position.