Lakers hold off Hornets for 3rd straight win
LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant had 25 points while moving into ninth place on the NBA's career scoring list, and Pau Gasol had 21 points and 13 rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers' third straight victory, 101-97 over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night.
Lamar Odom had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and Andrew Bynum added 17 points for the two-time defending champions, who have rebounded from a prolonged holiday skid and stories of minor team discord with five wins in six days, including three in the past four days.
After entering the NBA's career top 10 by passing Dominique Wilkins on Tuesday night, Bryant passed Oscar Robertson with his 26,712th career points on a floating jumper in the lane with 1:09 left in the third quarter. He followed up his milestone basket with two key buckets in the final 2 minutes while the Lakers sent New Orleans to its fourth straight loss at Staples Center.
Los Angeles snapped a three-game losing streak Dec. 29 with a gut-check win at New Orleans, but the Lakers' struggles continued until back-to-back victories earlier this week following an embarrassing blowout loss at home to mediocre Memphis last weekend.
David West had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who traveled a long way to open a two-game road trip.
Trevor Ariza scored 17 points and Emeka Okafor had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Hornets, but Los Angeles limited Chris Paul to 12 points and 10 assists. New Orleans struggled in the paint against Gasol and Bynum, but stayed close with balanced scoring, including 17 points from Marco Belinelli.
Bryant passed another signpost on his historic career despite recently revealing he has almost no cartilage left in his right knee. That's old news to coach Phil Jackson, who made a deal with Bryant nearly three years ago to limit his practice time, keeping him fresh for championship chases.
Not everything went well for the Lakers, who lost backup forward Matt Barnes to a sprained knee in the first half. Barnes, who's averaging 7.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in his first season with Los Angeles, will have an MRI on Saturday to determine the injury's severity.
Backup point guard Steve Blake then appeared to injure his ankle in the fourth quarter. Odom already is playing with a sprained left shoulder, although it didn't appear to limit him.
Hornets coach Monty Williams lauded Odom before the game, calling him "by far the best bench player in the league," and suggesting his skills would be all-NBA caliber if he got more playing time and touches.
Odom's 3-pointer with 7:39 to play put the Lakers up 87-77, but the Hornets replied with six straight points to keep it close.
NOTES: Before the game, Bryant and Derek Fisher presented a championship ring to DJ Mbenga, a seldom-used backup for last season's Lakers. Mbenga has played in 25 games with minimal impact for the Hornets, and was a healthy scratch against his former team. ... Next up for Bryant is Hakeem Olajuwon in eighth place with 26,946 points. When Jackson was asked which players Bryant particularly was eager to surpass, the coach immediately answered: "Michael Jordan." ... Fans near courtside included Denzel Washington, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sean Combs, Hilary Swank, Heidi Klum and Seal.