Kobe Bryant scored 28 points, Shannon Brown added 15 and the Los Angeles Lakers thrived again without their top two big men, beating the New Orleans Hornets 104-88 Sunday night.
DJ Mbenga had 10 points and 12 rebounds for the defending NBA champions, who easily won their fifth straight game and their second in a row without injured center Andrew Bynum and forward Pau Gasol.
Bryant scored all but two of his points before halftime, repeatedly capitalizing down low with ease against Devin Brown's defense. Los Angeles opened a 27-point lead in the third quarter and coasted to a 6-1 start.
Chris Paul had 15 points and nine assists for the Hornets, who made just 36.5 percent of their shots while opening a three-game West Coast road trip with their fourth loss in five games.
Bynum's strained right elbow has sidelined him for the past two games, while Gasol's strained right hamstring has kept him out since the preseason. Both will have three more days to heal before Thursday's visit from surprising Phoenix, the early Pacific Division co-leaders with Los Angeles.
Bryant scored exactly 41 points in three of the Lakers' previous four games, but the Hornets' poor shooting and often-confused defense created little reason to inspire another big game. Bryant went scoreless in the third quarter, and he sat down for good with nearly seven minutes still to play.
After leading by 17 points during the first half, Los Angeles opened the second half on a 17-3 run with two 3-pointers from Shannon Brown. The backup guard added a few rim-shaking dunks while scoring all his points after halftime.
Even Mbenga, the Lakers' backup center with only rudimentary skills, matched his career scoring high and fell one shy of his NBA rebounding best while making his fourth NBA start. Luke Walton added 11 points, while Lamar Odom had seven points, nine rebounds and six assists.
New Orleans coach Byron Scott began the trip by bumping shooting guard Morris Peterson from the starting lineup in favor of Devin Brown, who had played just eight minutes all season. Peterson started the Hornets' first six games, but made just 34.1 percent of his shots while playing defense that didn't please Scott.
"I thought it was important for these guys to know that I'm not just going to sit there and let things go the wrong way," Scott said before the game.
Immediately after the opening tip, Devin Brown turned the ball over to Bryant for a drive and a dunk. If Scott hoped to improve the Hornets' struggling defense, asking the smallish Devin Brown to stop Bryant's much-improved low-post game didn't work as planned.
NOTES: New Orleans didn't even dress Peterson, moving him to the inactive list. ... The Lakers are just two games into a stretch with 14 of 16 games at Staples Center. ... Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers sat together on the baseline.