“We sucked the joy out of a good victory.”
That was Phil Jackson’s postgame quote about a game that L.A. thoroughly dominated for about 42 minutes before allowing the Hornets to get within three points at 83-80 before Kobe Bryant made a shot so tough that, realistically, few if any other players in the league would have even attempted.
With James Posey draped to him like stink on an NFL offensive lineman, the shot clock down to one and a glass circle seemingly covering L.A.’s rim, Bryant somehow got a flat, 26-foot, fading bomb to go down that restored normalcy to a furious Hornets’ comeback.
Though out of rhythm as he largely deferred early in the contest, Bryant managed 20 points (including nine free throws), the same total reached by a very solid Derek Fisher, who canned four threes in the first half that pushed L.A. to a 51-30 lead at the break. No misprint there … L.A.’s swarming defense (and some missed open Hornets looks, to be fair) held the Hornets to only 30 points in the entire first half. New Orleans managed to pull only two points back in the third quarter before scoring more points (34) in the fourth than in that first half, but it just wasn’t enough to beat the Lakers.
Phil Jackson shortened the rotation a bit to nine players (Odom, Ariza, Farmar and Vujacic off the bench), while New Orleans showed its lack of depth by giving minutes to Mike James, Hilton Armstrong, Rasual Butler and Devin Brown. A solid defensive game plan effectively trapped CP3 all over the court before that big N.O. run, keyed in part by Andrew Bynum’s defensive presence, which produced four blocks and changed several other shots. L.A.’s now the only undefeated team in the league with Detroit coming to town on Friday.
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