Lakers Hold Off Hornets


Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s officially a win streak. Make it three straight for the Lake Show thanks to an inspired effort tonight during their 111-106 win over the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center. This one was bumpy ride to be sure as the Lakers did their best to make a would-be-blowout far too close for comfort late.

Up by as much as twenty at one point L.A. let N.O. get to within one with less than two minutes to play. But in the end it was the Lakers’ new found formula for success that carried them across the finish line first.

Kobe Bryant continues to thrive in his homage to Magic Johnson. KB24 once again facilitated the offense while flirting with a triple-double. It’s not déjà vu. This is real and what’s happening could be something special.

Mamba’s redefinition of his game is eye opening. 14 points, 11 dimes and 8 boards including a crucial dish to Earl Clark that bailed L.A. out of near disaster when this game was dangling in the balance late. That’s three straight wins for the Lakers and three straight games with Kobe racking up double digits dime totals.

Proving that passing is infectious the Lake Show took Kobe’s lead by sharing the rock with a season high 34 assists as a team. The ball moved crisply around the perimeter seemingly always landing in the hands of whatever gold jersey was wipe open or in the best position possible to score.

The man that is finding himself in the right place at the right time is Clark though. 20 and 12 tonight from the found money man that was once buried on Mike D’Antoni’s bench. His energy, like Kobe’s passing, is infectious. This team played with a certain step tonight we haven’t seen much of this season.

Dwight Howardled the way with 24 points but only grabbed 4 rebounds. That’s an odd occurrence but when Bryant is all of a sudden crashing the boards there just aren’t as many to go around…I guess.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t want to start pointing out the few specks of dirt on an otherwise clean win but the road is calling and the Lakers need to dial it up a notch if this train is going to keep rolling.

Pau Gasol’s transition to sixth man is clearly going to be an up and down ride. Tonight was one of those down nights. Not that the Spaniard didn’t play well, he just didn’t get the chance to really get into a rhythm. Then again with the way Clark was playing D’Antoni only found 22 minutes for Gasol. While Pau only scored 7 he did dish out 7 dimes and hit a Vegas slot line with 7 rebounds as well.

Luckily Antawn Jamison stepped it up scoring 16 off the bench while Steve Blake looked pretty good in his first action in months. Chris Duhon and Darius Morris should get comfortable riding in Jason Kapono position on the bench. Their minutes are officially gone.

The best news of all is the defensive commitment that has suddenly become common. New Orleans only shot 42% as a team and missed 15 straight at one point in the second quarter. About the only complaints are a few breakdowns on the perimeter.

Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon gave it to the Lakers combining for 40 on 14 of 28 shooting. Vasquez was too much for Nash while Bryant forgot about Gordon one too many times.

The good news is the effort and commitment on the defense is highly improved. D12 actually looked like the force we’ve been waiting to see. He challenged shots in the paint and even pressured the ball away from the hoop racking up 5 steals and 4 blocks.

The reinvented Lakers officially have a win streak now. They’ve also got a proven blueprint for success. Now comes the real test as this team hits the road for their annual Grammy trip. Winning is exactly what this team needs more of and winning on the road is exactly what they’ve found nearly impossible to do. If we see the same results away from Staples it might be time to start getting those expectations raised once again.