Lakers vs. Hornets: Lakers keep right on rolling
It was yet another easy game for the Lakers that got too close for comfort.
Still, the Lakers won their seven consecutive game, defeating the New Orleans Hornets, 110-99, tonight at Staples Center.
A 23-point Lakers lead was sliced to nine points twice with under a minute to play.
But Lakers Coach Phil Jackson never budged, leaving his starters on the bench, letting the reserves clean up their mess.
All seven victories in the winning streak have been by double digits.
Four of the five Lakers' starters scored in double figures.
Derek Fisher was the only starter who didn't, but he did have seven assists to go along with his seven points.
The Lakers next play Friday night against Miami and Dwyane Wade.
Perhaps the Heat can give the Lakers a challenge.
Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 21 points and nine rebounds, Kobe Bryant had 18 points, Pau Gasol added 14 and Ron Artest had 16.
Former UCLA star Darren Collison led the Hornets with 20 points and five assists.
Lakers 90, Hornets 69 (third quarter)
The 23-point lead the Lakers had built was cut to 15 points by the Hornets in the third quarter.
When that happened, the Lakers picked up their defensive intensity a little more.
That allowed the Lakers to stay in control in opening a 90-69 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Through three quarters, the Lakers were making 58.5% of their shots, 35.3% of their three-pointers.
Lakers 62, Hornets 42 (halftime)
It looked as if the Lakers became more serious in the second quarter, as if they realized that the New Orleans Hornets were going to at least play hard.
So that meant the Lakers had to match New Orleans' energy.
The Lakers did, clamping down on defense, sharing the basketball on offense, building a 23-point cushion that eventually became a 62-42 lead at halftime.
The Lakers outscored the Hornets, 31-15, in the second quarter.
The Hornets pulled to within 20 points at the half after Hornets rookie Darren Collison threw in a three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to end the second quarter.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson even used a big frontline of seven-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum with 6-10 Lamar Odom in the second.
It worked to a degree, with all three scoring down low or on drives. Odom's drive late in the second quarter gave the Lakers their 23-point lead.
Bynum had 13 points and Gasol added 10 in the first half.
Odom, Gasol and Bynum combined for 16 rebounds in the first half.Lakers 31, Hornets 27 (first quarter)
Indeed, the New Orleanshornets are a different team -- at least they were during the first quarter Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers saw a more intense Hornets team on defense and a team that shared the basketball.
That made the Lakers work for a 31-27 lead over the Hornets at the end of the first.
Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with nine points each.
Former UCLA star Darren Collison had eight points for the Hornets.
Two seasons ago, the Lakers and New Orleans Hornets played down to the regular-season wire for the best record in the Western Conference.
Now, the Lakers are defending NBA champions and the Hornets are going downhill fast.
New Orleans fired Byron Scott as coach and replaced him with General Manager Jeff Bower. The Hornets' star, point guard Chris Paul, is out with a sprained left ankle.
The Lakers, who have won six consecutive games, have seen a different Hornets team lately.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said the Hornets are playing more intense defense.
The Lakers, who have won their last six games by double digits, promised that they won't take the Hornets for granted when they play them tonight at Staples Center.
-- Broderick Turner
Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol pulls down a rebound in front of Hornets forward David West and is fouled by New Orleans guard Marcus Thornton. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times