While the Hornets remain without their best player and were also missing Peja Stojakovic for their second visit to the Lakers' home floor in a month, the defending NBA champions are closer to full strength now than they were in November. Add it up and it made for a daunting task for New Orleans (7-11), which dropped to 1-9 on the road this season.
The Hornets hung around for one quarter, but the Lakers (14-3) built a 20-point lead by halftime and continued to expand the margin in the third period. A group consisting primarily of New Orleans reserves put together an extended rally to close the fourth quarter, pulling the visitors as close as nine points in the final minute.
Heading into a light stretch of the schedule the Hornets only play once in the next seven days lets take a brief player-by-player look at the New Orleans roster (see postgame quotes at bottom from Jeff Bower and Hornets players):
Darren Collison: Up to fourth in NBA.coms rookie rankings, the four-year UCLA product has handled his unexpected elevation to the starting lineup as well as you could possibly imagine. The 21st pick in the 2009 NBA Draft has said frequently that he will not use the fact that hes a rookie as an excuse, and that he expects to do well. His big plays during crunch time of close games have helped the Hornets play .500 ball without their top player.
Devin Brown: Produced several quality performances in home victories in November, but his shot deserted him on the two-game trip, going 2-for-15 at Sacto and L.A.
James Posey: Coming off offseason knee surgery, hes looked more active as November progressed. When various Hornets were injured last season, Posey remained a reserve (he was the only player who did not start once in 2008-09), but Jeff Bower made him a starter in Stojakovics stead.
David West: His best two-game individual stretch of the season came prior to tonight, with the two-time All-Star totaling 51 points vs. the Bucks and Kings. He only played 27 minutes tonight, scoring eight points on 4-for-9 shooting.
Emeka Okafor: Somewhat quietly, hes putting up virtually the same stats he produced over the previous five seasons in Charlotte. Averaged 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds on the two-game road trip.
Darius Songaila: Has become a more prominent part of the rotation since Bower took over as head coach. All four games Songaila played 20-plus minutes this season have come since Nov. 19.
Marcus Thornton: Had three games of 20 points or more over a recent six-game stretch, but his scoring production has tailed off a bit in the last week.
Hilton Armstrong: Hes been in and out of the mix lately due to injury, but when he has been available, his minutes have dipped. Has only logged double-figure minutes twice since the coaching change.
Bobby Brown: His shooting has been streaky, but hes certainly not bashful. According to NBA.com, entering tonight Brown was 15th in the league in field goal attempts per 48 minutes. His 123 shots in 261 minutes was nearly one every two minutes. By comparison, Poseys rate was one FGA every five minutes. CP3 fires one FGA every 2.5 minutes.
Julian Wright: Back in the second-string small forward role on the two-game road trip due to Stojakovics absence, he was still having difficulty avoiding mistakes. Missed a dunk at Sacramento and on one offensive play tonight, he received a pass under the rim without establishing himself in bounds. Was active though at Lakers, with seven points, five boards and three assists in 16 minutes.
Morris Peterson: Has only appeared in one game since Nov. 6, playing four minutes vs. Milwaukee on Nov. 25.
Chris Paul: The two-time All-Star missed his eighth straight game, but increased the intensity of his pregame workout at the Staples Center. The Hornets have been more competitive than just about anyone believed without CP3, going 4-4 in his absence so far, as they head into a stretch of schedule that is much more manageable on paper.
Peja Stojakovic: Did not travel with the team on the West Coast trip due to personal reasons and missed a second straight game. Its interesting to note that although his scoring and rebounding averages have increased since he moved into the starting five, his shooting percentages are actually a bit better as a reserve. However, most of his starts have come since Paul was sidelined, so is that due partly to getting fewer open looks?
Sean Marks: Out due to shoulder injury tonight. He's sporadically been in rotation recently, but hasn't played more than 10 minutes in any game since the 15 minutes he logged in Bower's coaching debut vs. Portland.
Ike Diogu: The 6-foot-9 power forward has not appeared in a game, either preseason or regular season. As of Nov. 22, he was expected to be sidelined for another two weeks before having his strained left knee reevaluated again by the club.