The one-two punch of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol is enough to give any NBA team fits. Interestingly enough, though, it was the one-two punch of Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom that ultimately secured a much-needed 87-78 victory over the New Orleans Hornets the for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.
Despite -- yet another – awful performance from Gasol, and an equally weak showing by Bryant, the two-time defending champions were able to even the series up at a victory apiece courtesy of a 17-point, 11-rebound outburst by Bynum and a 16-point effort by the freshly crowned 6th Man of the Year, Odom.
Keeping the theme of role players outplaying the stars going strong, Ron Artest added 15 points of his own in the win -- including a beauty of a three-pointer late in the fourth that served as the dagger in the heart of a young Hornets team hoping to make a run.
During the game, the announcers brought up some interesting comments by Bryant after Game 1 about how he and Gasol were the No. 1 and No. 2 players on the team. And how, as such, they rightfully got a lot of credit when the going was good, and all of the blame when things turn to you-know-what. Wednesday night featured the latter, with Bryant and Gasol scoring 11 and eight points, respectively.
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On the New Orleans side, Chris Paul was “contained” by the Los Angeles defense to the tune of 20 points and nine assists. While the talented point guard still did just about anything he wanted on the court in Game 2, he saw his stats take a bit of a hit from their 33-point, 14-assist Game 1 totals because of a largely unimpressive effort by the same supporting cast that lifted the team to that shocking upset victory on Sunday afternoon.
Aside from Trevor Ariza, who scored 22 points for the Hornets, the group faltered in every possible way both mentally and physically. Despite the fact that they acknowledged before the game that they would have to put up a near-perfect effort in order to win against a desperate Lakers squad, the Hornets committed 16 turnovers on the day. This, of course, comes on the heels of them turning the ball over just three times in Game 1.
Further, New Orleans seemed to struggle to score for most of the game, finally looking like a team that had a David West-sized hole in their offensive attack schemes. Emeka Okafor, who dealt with foul trouble for most of the day, had a mere seven points.
Game 3 of this series is scheduled for Friday night in New Orleans.