Tonight’s game vs. the New Orleans Hornets was the Lakers’ first of their seven-game road trip away from Los Angeles. The Lakers came off a heart-breaking loss to the San Antonio Spurs, and the only way to alleviate their pain was to win a game.
The Los Angeles Lakers began the game playing tenacious defense, and as a result the Hornets were having difficulties making their shots. The Lakers were not only playing great on defensive end, they were also feeding the ball to their big men for easy buckets. At the midway point of the first quarter, the Lakers opened up an eight point lead, 10-2.
The Lakers did not commit a single turnover in the first quarter, and that efficiency allowed them to maintain their eight point lead throughout the quarter. The Lakers’ big men combined to score 16 of the team’s 27 points, and they were dominated the paint for the full 12 minutes. At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers were leading 27-19. Pau Gasol was the team’s leading scorer, and his front-court teammate Andrew Bynum had six points.
Despite their auspicious start, the Lakers began the second quarter with a paucity of energy and focus. The Hornets went on a diminutive run to cut the Lakers eight point down to four at the 6:43 mark of the second period.
However, just when it seemed as though the Hornets would rally to capture the lead, the Lakers amped up their defensive tenacity. Pau Gasol was the catalyst for Los Angeles’ run in the second quarter, and he was overwhelming the Hornets’ big men with his size and agility. The Lakers opened up their biggest lead of the first half, 14, thanks in large part to Gasol’s and Bryant’s efficient play.
Nevertheless, the Hornets ended the quarter and yet another run and they cut the Lakers’ 14 lead to six. The Lakers headed into the locker-room with a 56-50 lead, and their leading scorers were Pau Gasol with 19 points and Kobe Bryant with 18.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Lakers guard Derek Fisher suffered a minor knee injury. Luckily for the Lakers, Fisher remained in the court and he once again showed his strength and courage. However, the rest of the Lakers team did not share the same resilient qualities as Fisher. The Lakers’ eight point lead was cut down to three, 71-68, after the Hornets went on a 13-6 run. Los Angeles was on the verge of opening up a double-digit lead, but their lackadaisical play allowed the Hornets to creep back into the game.
After leading for the entire first half, the Lakers relinquished their advantage; the Hornets hit multiple threes to end the third quarter with an 82-81 lead.
The Lakers and Hornets traded baskets to begin the fourth quarter and it was clear that that both teams were valuing each possession. The Lakers amped up their defensive intensity, but the Hornets were feeding off the energy of their home-crowd. With 5:52 left in regulation, the Lakers held a mere two-point lead, 90-88.
However, once the game entered its final three minutes the Lakers’ experience turned out a boon for the team. Kobe Bryan thrives in late-game situations, and tonight he helped carry the Lakers to a victory.
After 48 minutes of grueling basketball, they Lakers held off the Hornets and won, 101-95. The Lakers’ leading scorers were Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant with 34 and 32 points respectively.
The Lakers have begun their seven-game road trip on the right foot, and have improved to a record of 35-16.