Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are about as long as the list of Lakers who played well last night. Ron Artest had some good moments early in the game, but it would be hard for me to find any other Laker to include in The Good. Pau scored the Lakers first 12 points and had 14 of their 27 first quarter points. Gasol would finish with 26 and 22 while Kobe would turn his scoring on late to score 31 with five rebounds and six assists. More importantly, Kobe got his 31 on only 18 shots and got to the foul line 11 times. It was a rather efficient game for both Bryant and Gasol, but those were the only two Lakers with even remotely efficient games.
Derek Fisher. Jordan Farmar. Josh Powell. Lamar Odom. Phil Jackson. Brian Shaw. Shannon Brown. Me. DJ Mbenga. Pretty much everything else went wrong for the Lakers last night. They pulled down more rebounds and turned the ball over fewer than 10 times, and when that happens, it usually equals a Lakers win. However, that obviously wasn’t the case last night. The Lakers showed little to no kind of sense of urgency until the last half of the fourth quarter, they kept the Hornets on the foul line (34 attempts) shot too many three-pointers (seven for 29) and allowed an undersized New Orleans team to shoot 49 percent from the field. The Lakers were out hustled to all of the loose balls, even though they won the rebound battle, they were consistently giving up great position to the Hornets, and Chris Paul was able to do whatever he wanted to the Lakers point guards. In Paul’s three games back from his injury before the Lakers amassed more than 10 points once and more than 10 assists once. Last night, Paul finished with 15 and 13, with his impact on the game speaking in larger volumes than what the box score says.
From the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant raced down the other end of the court, bearing a determined look and chewing gum profusely. He had just made a putback off Jordan Farmar’s missed free throw, which cut the Lakers’ deficit to six points after trailing New Orleans most of the game by double-digit margins. The task was far from over, but with the Lakers scoring 11 unanswered points with 5:35 remaining in the game, Bryant’s stoic demeanor gave the impression the team seemed well on its way to completing the comeback effort. With 38.1 seconds left, Bryant’s reaction changed altogether as it became apparent the Lakers’ run wouldn’t be able to camouflage the lapses that had put the team in this predicament in the first place. Those wondering how Bryant would react to the Lakers’ eventual 108-100 loss Monday to the New Orleans Hornets were given a sneak peek after Coach Phil Jackson called timeout with the team trailing by five points. Bryant approached a chair on the Lakers’ bench, punched it, and then sat down in disgust.
From Silver Screen and Roll: That ticking you hear? That’s a clock counting down to the playoffs. The Lakers have only eight regular-season games left, and if tonight’s contest – a 100 to 108 loss to the New Orleans Hornets – proved anything, it’s that the problems afflicting the Lakers since the beginning of the season are still very much with them. When you consider the whole of these last five months, does it seem to you that the Lakers have improved? At all? At this point, shouldn’t they have their act together just a little bit more than they do? I know I shouldn’t seek to extract too much meaning out of a single game. But when the full run of a team’s flaws crops up in one 48-minute stretch in late March, it’s hard not to see critical signs everywhere. These problems are real, and they’re apparently not going away. Let’s go to the post-mortem.
From Hornets 24/7: The biggest crowd of the season saw the Hornets at their best tonight, getting an early jump on the Lakers, building up big leads and refusing to surrender. They were physical and acted like they had something to play for, even though they’re just a couple of weeks away from certain vacation. Some might argue that wins like this are pointless, but I have to disagree. The Hornets needed Chris Paul to come back for the home stretch, playoff hopes or no playoff hopes, and the fans were in dire need of some thrills before this ugly season ended. They need to believe that the Hornets aren’t completely broken, that there’s some hope for next season, some reason to renew those season tickets. And tonight they got that. 18,205 of them (plus Bruce Willis) were treated to scrappy defense, big runs and a win over the best in the West. 108-100 the final score.
From Land O’ Lakers: With 8:42 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Lakers down by 87-72, KCAL sideline reporter/ESPNLA.com’s very own John Ireland busted out one very surprising sideline interview: Bruce Willis! That’s right. John McClane himself, in the Big Easy to film a movie. Willis was enjoying courtside seats courtesy of the generosity of Hornets owner George Shinn. And judging by his easy-breezy vibe, he seemed to be enjoying everything N’Awlins has to offer. I’m not saying the man definitely indulged in a few Seagram’s Golden Wine Coolers. I’m just not entirely comfortable proclaiming he hadn’t. At any rate, the chat initially felt like little more than than a random oddity involving a celebrity at a Lakers game outside the confines of Staples Center. A new twist on a familiar sight. Good for a few “Hey, it’s a loopy Bruce Willis!” tweets from Lakers fans and basketball scribes, but nothing of actual consequence.
From the OC Register: The Lakers ran into the Cleveland Cavaliers last Wednesday night in San Antonio. The Lakers were staying over at their luxury hotel after facing the Spurs, and the Cavaliers were checking into the same hotel before they faced the Spurs. The next time the Lakers see the Cavaliers — if there is one — looks like it will be in Cleveland. The Lakers’ 108-100 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Monday night dropped the Lakers four games behind the Cavaliers for the best record in the NBA. Each team has eight games left, and Cleveland seems to have locked up home-court advantage in a potential NBA Finals matchup. Then again, before the Lakers think about LeBron and Shaq, they need to worry about being unable to meet the intensity of a New Orleans team already eliminated from postseason contention. “Just didn’t play well,” Kobe Bryant said about the Lakers falling to 2-2 on this trip.
From the Los Angeles Times: This late in the season, this far into March, the Lakers continue to give reasons to scrap championship-parade plans. The runaway leaders in the Western Conference on Monday tossed another clunker onto a growing pile of them this month, falling to New Orleans, a team that was officially eliminated from playoff contention last week, in another uninspiring effort. Chris Paul and Darren Collison ran circles around the Lakers in a 108-100 Hornets victory at New Orleans Arena, leading to a seething outburst from Kobe Bryant, who punched a chair on the bench in the final minute and was still simmering half an hour later in a postgame interview that lasted all of 42 seconds. Bryant obviously didn’t like what he saw unfolding in front of him. He had 31 points and Pau Gasol had 26 points and 22 rebounds, but there was almost nothing else to appease the Lakers’ superstar, in case the brief postgame transcript didn’t prove the point.
From The Times Picayune: The origin was anyone’s guess, so if someone affiliated with the New Orleans Hornets told you he or she knew New Orleans had an effort in it like Monday’s game at the New Orleans Arena, turn and walk away and don’t bother debating. After watching the Hornets recline in consecutive blowout home losses to Cleveland and Portland, and drop 14 of their previous 18 games entering Monday night – 11 of them by double figures – there was absolutely no reason to believe they’d find a spine in time to play the Western Conference-leading Lakers. But find a spine they did. And a couple of fists. And some sharp elbows. And the result was a 108-100 victory that was improbable, fulfilling and frustrating all in one. It was improbable because of the former, because the Hornets had begun playing like they didn’t have much stomach left for the season long before they had nothing left to play for besides pride.
From The Times Picayune: Three hours before the Los Angeles Lakers’ bus made its way to the New Orleans Arena, Kobe Bryant already was on the court taking jump shots in preparation for Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Hornets. It did not matter that his right index finger was discolored and fractured. For 2 1/2 hours, Bryant took shots from nearly every spot on the floor when most of his teammates still were at the team hotel on Canal Street. Having an intense drive, Bryant’s motivation remains the same as it was last June when he walked on the floor for Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic. Winning his fourth NBA championship last season, he wants to repeat this upcoming June. “To win is the only reason I play, ’’ Bryant said. ”It means everything to me.“