Bryant scored a game-high 25 points, putting him at 26,720 for his career. He surpassed the Big O’s mark of 27,212 with a short jumper inside the paint with just over one minute left in third quarter. He already passed Dominique Wilkins to put himself inside the top 10 earlier in the week against the Detroit Pistons.
The game was close all night, as the Lakers had a 10-point lead momentarily in the fourth quarter, but never had a double-digit otherwise. They led at halftime 51-46, but the Hornets came out strong defensively early in the third quarter, and took a brief 62-61 lead with about four minutes left in the period.
The Lakers responded and got the lead back up to seven at 80-73 to start the fourth quarter. After Lamar Odom hit a three-pointer to make it 87-77 with just under eight minutes left, the Hornets responded with six straight points, but could never get closer than three. Bryant then hit two baskets in the final two minutes, and the Lakers were able to make enough free throws down the stretch for the win.
Pau Gasol rebounded from a sub-par game in Phoenix on Wednesday, to score 21 points, grab 13 rebounds, and dish out seven assists, hitting 6-8 from the floor. Lamar Odom, playing with a sore left shoulder, didn’t appear to be bothered by the injury, scoring 17 points, to go along with 13 rebounds. Andrew Bynum chipped in with 17 points, five rebounds, and three blocked shots, as the Lakers dominated the scoring in the paint.
The Lakers, who shot over 60% in the first half from the field, finished the game at 50.6% (39-77), and 5-12 from beyond the arc. They also limited their turnovers, which has plagued them recently. On Friday, they had just 11 to the Hornets’ 12. The Lakers held New Orleans to 43.4% (33-76) shooting from the floor, although the Hornets did hit 8-19 from the three point line.
Everything wasn’t all rosy though for the world champs, as Matt Barnes sprained his knee early in the first half. And while he did score a basket and continue to play a little longer, he did eventually leave the game, and an MRI is scheduled tomorrow to assess the severity of the injury.
Also, early in the fourth quarter, Steve Blake turned an ankle when he landed on Andrew Bynum’s foot. Blake left the court, had his ankle wrapped, and did return to the bench in uniform.
The Hornets were led by David West’s 23 points and 12 rebounds. Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli both scored 17 points, and Emeka Okafor had 13 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Paul took just six shots, scoring 12 points, but he did have a game-high 10 assists.
The Lakers’ next game is against Amar’e Stoudemire and the much-improved New York Knicks at Staples Center on Sunday. This will be the first meeting between the new-look Knicks and the Lakers this season. The Knicks knocked off Stoudemire’s old team, the Phoenix Suns, on Friday easily 121-96.