After three weeks of struggling against lesser teams, maybe what the Lakers needed was a challenge. The New Orleans Hornets should have been one, they are the second place team in the West. But you never would have known it Tuesday night
The Lakers took charge of the game in the second quarter, led by as much as 21 in the third and cruised to a 100-87 victory. It would be hard to envision a better tune up for the big Christmas Day showdown with Boston, and it was a game that should ease the mind of concerned Lakers fans. At least for a couple days.
After weeks of spotty defense, the Lakers were swarming an active, using their length to disrupt the Hornets from the opening tip off, and holding them 41.6% shooting overall and at 38% or below for three of the four quarters. Most importantly, the Hornets leading scorers were kept in check — Chris Paul shot just 6 of 16, David West just 5 of 15. Stopping the opposing team’s best players was a Lakers trend early in the season.
On offense, Pau Gasol was off to a fast start, shooting 7 of 8 including a rare three pointer on his way to 16 first half points. In the second half Kobe took over, scoring 18 points and getting to the free throw line 11 times. In the first half he may also have had the highlight play of the game, throwing down a vicious reverse dunk over David West.
Kobe also won his one-on-one battle with James Posey for much of the night. That was a big battle during the Finals last year when Posey was wearing Boston green, and in the end it was Posey celebrating in the end.
Kobe got a small measure of revenge on Posey and the Lakers can get a small measure of revenge for that Finals loss at home on Christmas day — but that test will be a college physics final compared to the psychology 101 pop quiz that was the Hornets.