Kobe Bryant vs. Hornets

Kobe Bryant drives hard to the basket against Hornets.

The Lakers just keep rolling right along towards the playoffs, as they took care of the New Orleans Hornets 102-84 at Staples Center on Sunday night.

Kobe Bryant, who scored 79 points in his previous two games, poured in a game-high 30 points to go along with five assists, as the Lakers won their seventh straight game, and have gone 15-1 since the All-Star break.

Los Angeles jumped on the David West-less Hornets early, and led 30-19 after the first quarter.  After getting up by as many as 18 points in the first half, the Lakers settled for a halftime lead of 57-41.

The Hornets played much better in the second half, and were able to rally back behind the inspired play of Carl Landry, who is starting in place of West.  New Orleans got to within six points in the fourth quarter at 78-72, before the Lakers went on a 24-12 run to close the game, and win going away by 18.

Pau Gasol had a big night with 23 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocked shots.  Andrew Bynum battled foul trouble all game long, and played just over 21 minutes, but he did have 13 points and five boards in his limited action.  Ron Artest was the only other Laker in double figures with 11 points on 4-6 shooting from the field.

For the game, the Lakers shot 41-85 (48.2%) from the field, 17-21 (81.0%) from the foul line, but only 3-17 (17.6%) from beyond the arc, with Bryant hitting just 1-6 from deep.  The Lakers won the rebound battle 44-43 and committed just nine turnovers.

New Orleans struggled shooting the ball all night, finishing at 40.2% on 35-87 from the floor.  They were also a miserable 3-17 (17.6%) from the three-point line, with Marco Belinelli convering just 1-7 from long range.

Landry led the Hornets with 24 points and 10 rebounds playing almost 44 minutes.  Emeka Okafor had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Chris Paul had an off night scoring just 10 points on 4-9 shooting, but he did have nine assists.  No other Hornet scored in double figures.

The win put the Lakers’ record at 53-20, and they are one game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for second place in the Western Conference.  The two teams will get together on Thursday night for a battle at Staples Center.    San Antonio dropped their third straight and are now 57-16, just four games ahead of the Lakers for the conference lead with nine games remaining.

The champs will get three days off before they take on Dallas, and will try to complete a 7-0 homestand.  Sometimes long layoffs can be a bad thing for a team playing well, but the Lakers know they have to be at their best in what will surely be a playoff-like atmosphere on Thursday.   The Mavericks and Lakers have split their first two games this season, with the Lakers beating the Mavericks 96-91 in their last meeting in Dallas.

Box Score: Lakers vs. Hornets Box Score