NEW ORLEANS — Chris Paul got
clearance to play more than in any game since his return from a knee
injury and the Hornets came away with one of their most impressive
victories of the season.
Paul registered his first
double-double since returning from injury with 15 points and 13 assists,
and New Orleans led most of the way in a surprising 108-100 triumph
over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.
"I knew going into the game I was
going to get to play a little bit more," said Paul, who had been limited
to 30 or fewer minutes in his previous three outings since returning
from a left meniscus tear that sidelined him for 25 games. He played a
little more than 39 minutes against the Lakers.
"I didn't have to be worried about
being over my minutes and stuff like that, so I was getting a little bit
The Hornets were eliminated from
playoff contention with a lopsided loss to Portland in their previous
game, but took the court with renewed enthusiasm against the Western
Conference-leading Lakers, who drew a sellout crowd and several
celebrities to the arena, including movie stars Bruce Willis and
"We had all the fans here and
different things like that," Paul said. "I wish we could get that kind
of crowd when Memphis was here and not just the Lakers. But it was great
energy and a good win for us."
David West scored 20 points for New
Orleans, while Marcus Thornton had 18 points and fellow rookie Darren
Collison, a former UCLA standout, added 17 points against his hometown
Kobe Bryant had 31 points and Pau
Gasol added 26 points and 22 rebounds, but they didn't have much help as
the Lakers trailed throughout the final three quarters and fell behind
by as much as 17 points in the fourth before losing for the second time
in three games.
"We just didn't play well," a visibly
frustrated Bryant said tersely and repeatedly until he was asked why he
had so little to say.
"It's for my own good," he said.
Bryant was called for five fouls and
bickered frequently with officials.
Gasol and Lamar Odom blamed the loss
on a combination of defensive lapses and poor overall shooting.
"You've got to play defense," Odom
said. "If we don't do the intangibles, we need to depend on our shooting
to win games and we're not always going to shoot well."
Added Gasol, "We need to cover each
other's back a little more. We need to scramble and bring that energy on
to the defensive end. … We got some good looks offensively. Most of
the time we would knock those shots down, but tonight they didn't really
They did fall for the Hornets, who
outshot the Lakers 49 percent to 42 percent as Los Angeles was hurt by
7-of-29 shooting from 3-point range.
Thornton and James Posey each had
three 3-pointers for the Hornets, who hit 10 of 23 3-point attempts
while snapping a two-game skid. Posey finished with 13 points and Emeka
Okafor grabbed 13 rebounds.
Ron Artest scored 14 points and Odom
10 for Los Angeles, but the Lakers did not have a point from a reserve
until Jordan Farmar's 3-pointer with 2:42 left in the third quarter,
which cut New Orleans' lead to 66-61.
The Hornets responded with eight
straight points, capped by West's layup on a feed from Paul.
After Gasol's free throws pulled the
Lakers to 74-63, Los Angeles was looking to cut it to single digits when
Posey swooped in for a backside block on Gasol. Collison then hit a
driving floater in a crowd while being fouled by Gasol. He converted the
three-point play to widen New Orleans' lead to 77-63 heading into the
Lakers coach Phil Jackson appeared
ready to concede after Okafor tipped in West's miss to make it 87-70
with a little more than nine minutes left. Bryant joined Gasol on the
bench, even thought the Lakers' reserves were being outscored 31-5 to
that point. The Lakers then scored 11 straight points, the last when
Bryant checked back in just in time to put back Farmar's missed free
throw, cutting it to 87-81 with 5:42 still remaining.
Darius Songaila, who had 10 points on
5-of-6 shooting, then hit a jumper to snap the run. After Farmar hit
another 3, West banked in a tough fade over Odom.
Artest then missed his second 3-point
attempt in three possessions and the Hornets began rebuilding their
lead, then closed out the win by hitting 12 of 14 free throws in the
Hornets owner George Shinn,
who has been undergoing treatment for prostate cancer for several
months, said he recently learned he is cancer free and was sitting
courtside at the game, next to Willis. … Prior to tip-off, Jackson
said Lakers forward Luke Walton, who has been out with a pinched nerve
in his back, is expected to be back at practice next week and could
start doing some court work by Thursday. … Jackson said center Andrew
Bynum, out with a left Achilles' strain, only began walking without
discomfort a couple days ago. "I haven't put any timetable on Andrew at
all," Jackson said, adding that he does not believe Bynum needs to play
before the playoffs begin. … The Lakers conclude a five-game road trip
at Atlanta on Wednesday.