Kobe Bryant scored 47 points and the Los Angeles Lakers scored 33 points in the fourth quarter to defeat the New Orleans Hornets 108-102 Wednesday night at the New Orleans Arena.
The Lakers were down by as many as 25 points during Wednesday’s contest, but capitalized on an inexperienced New Orleans team that failed to score a point in the final 6:47 of the game. The Lakers scored 20 unanswered points on their way to victory.
The final minutes of the game was all Bryant. He scored the equalizing lay-up with 1:34 left after the Hornets’ Eric Gordon was called out-of-bounds for stepping on the sideline. Bryant dribbled the ball up court, cut down the lane, and scored a smooth fade-away from 10 feet out to put the Lakers ahead, 104-102.
Down by one possession, Hornets Center Robin Lopez attacked the rim but was blocked and then out-rebounded by Lakers’ big Dwight Howard. L.A. then caught all of the Hornets sleeping with a Steve Blake inbound right to Bryant on the run. He drove straight to the rim for the uncontested dunk. The Hornets, down 106-102, fumbled through the remaining moments before retiring.
“We just couldn’t execute, and once it started to roll their way it’s hard to stop that momentum,” Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams said during his postgame press conference. “Nine points in the fourth quarter — I want to look at it and see what kind of looks we brought. Our guys fought; we just couldn’t come away with a win.”
“I think it’s a lot of our inexperience and execution, those were the two main things” said Hornets Forward Al-Farouq Aminu. “We didn’t execute down the stretch. Coach always emphasizes to us that we have to be able to do that, especially to beat a team like them that has a lot of veterans, has been in a lot of situations like that in the playoffs and that kind of environment. We just have to do a better job.”
It was a different story in the first half. The Hornets routed the Lakers through the first two quarters, and lead 67-48 going into the halftime break. It was a season high for points scored in the first half for New Orleans, and a season high for most points scored in a quarter with 39 in the second. The Lakers, who flew in late last night after a scalding 122-105 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, looked sluggish and disorganized before the half.
After the break, both teams dueled for the offensive edge. The Hornets kept the Lakers at bay with outside shooting and inside passing from guards Eric Gordon and Greivis Vasquez. Both guards scored in double digits tonight: Gordon tallied 18 points and five assists, and Vasquez scored 15 points and 12 assists, his twenty-third double-double of the season.
Ultimately, the Lakers outscored the Hornets by one point in the third quarter, but still trailed 93-75 going into the final period.
“We just talked about playing with more determination” at halftime, said Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni. “We were a step slower and they were a step faster. They were just beating us. Give them credit, they were shooting it well and we just couldn’t catch up to them. Then, for whatever reason, adrenaline kicked in or whatever, the horses smelled the barn and they ran back in there.”
After tonight’s victory the Lakers (31-31) are within two victories of a Western Conference playoff berth, as they try to overtake the Utah Jazz for the eighth seed.
The Hornets (21-41) travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies on March 9.
The Hornets have now lost 10 consecutive games to the Lakers, going back to a March 29, 2010 win at home, 108-102.
The 25-point blown lead ties the Hornets’ franchise record two other times: a 104-100 loss to Cleveland in 2004, and a 105-101 loss to Minnesota in 1996.
Greivis Vasquez, Al-Farouq Aminu and Robin Lopez all had double-doubles tonight.
Kobe Bryant recorded 42 points and 12 assists, along with seven rebounds and a blocked shot. It was his eleventh double-double of the season. He had 25 points and 11 assists in the second half, and was seven-of-eight with 18 points in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers’ Jodie Meeks was quiet most of the night, but scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, including four-for-four from behind the three-point arc.
With additional reporting by Jason Saul.