With 1:17 left in the second quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 103-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant drove to the middle from the right baseline and hit a floater over Robin Lopez to become the youngest player in league history to score 30,000 points.
New Orleans led most of the first half, but things began to change after Kobe hit the scoring milestone. The Lakers came out energized after the half and really locked down the Hornets on defense.
Antawn Jamison hit a three 42 seconds into the third quarter, and the Lakers would never look back, outscoring the Hornets 56-39 in the second half.
The Lakers were led by Kobe’s 29 points and six rebounds. Metta World Peace led the team in rebounding with nine, while Dwight Howard blocked five shots.
Ryan Anderson was virtually unguardable and had 31 points to go along with nine rebounds for New Orleans. The Lakers defenders were unable to check the hot-shooting forward all night.
Greivis Vasquez tried to help Anderson out by scoring 16 points and dishing nine assists, but the Lakers proved to be too much on the night.
Chris Duhon: B+
While Chris Duhon did not look to score much, he still found ways to impact the game. Duhon was able to attack Greivis Vasquez and break down the defense, and was also extremely efficient in the pick-and-roll on his way to a 10-assist, five-rebound night.
His role was clearly defined Wednesday night, as the other four starters were firing on all cylinders offensively.
Kobe Bryant: A
Kobe Bryant entered the game needing 13 points in order to reach 30,000 points for his career. Bryant scored 29 and joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the fifth player in NBA history to join the hallowed club.
Kobe’s efficiency was on display all night long, finishing 10-of-17 from the floor with six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Hornets simply did not have anybody on the roster capable of defending Kobe. As such, Kobe deferred to Dwight Howard early and allowed the game to come to him.
Congratulations on the milestone achievement, Kobe.
Metta World Peace: B+
Metta World Peace had an extremely active night, especially on the glass. The mercurial forward scored 11 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
While the Lakers gave up too many offensive rebounds for the second straight game, Metta did a great job of contributing wherever he was needed. He hit the boards hard in the first quarter, scored well with the second unit, and switched on to Ryan Anderson in attempts to slow him down.
His intensity on the glass was much needed, as the Lakers were being out-rebounded through the first two quarters. Metta did a great job of noticing Dwight Howard needed help on the glass and made an impact.
Antawn Jamison: B-
Although he struggled when guarding Ryan Anderson and was consistently late on his rotations, Jamison took advantage of the open looks the Hornets afforded him all night and knocked down 3-of-6 from behind the arc.
He really needs to do a better job of helping Howard on the boards, but it is hard to argue with his play on offense when he is hitting jumpers to stretch the floor.
With Pau Gasol out, Jamison’s play becomes extremely important on both sides of the floor for L.A. He is not the biggest banger in the post or the best defender, but his rotations and lack of rebounding hurt the Lakers in the first half.
Dwight Howard: B-
With each game that passes, Dwight Howard seems to look more and more like his old self. Wednesday night the game plan was to involve Dwight early, and he responded well, scoring seven of the team’s first nine points.
Additionally, Dwight’s athleticism seems to be coming back, and on a few occasions, he threw down his patented thunderous dunks.
However, Dwight did not have much help on the glass or off his rotations, and the frustration seemed to energize him even more on both sides of the floor.
While he played well on defense, blocking five shots and recording eight rebounds, he really needs to work for his position on the block and demand the ball more.
The Lakers were cruising in the fourth quarter and Dwight finally had a night off from the hack-a-Dwight. Howard finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 33 minutes of action.
Jodie Meeks: C
While he started out slow and missed five of his first six shots, Jodie Meeks came on in the second half, his defense and shooting helping solidify the Lakers' lead.
Meeks was able to jump out into passing lanes and record three steals, and played solid defense on rookie Austin Rivers.
There is no doubt Mike D’Antoni is trying to play Meeks into rhythm, because he desperately needs a shooting guard behind Kobe Bryant. He also needs to find a knockdown shooter who can help spread the floor for Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant.
The bench was virtually nonexistent until the fourth quarter, when the Lakers were running away with the game. But the Hornets seemed to wear down from the Lakers’ defensive pressure in the second half, and Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill all played well as a unit in the fourth quarter.
Hill knocked down his jumpers to lead the bench with nine points and eight rebounds, and looked very active defensively.
Morris played well in limited minutes, connecting on both three-point attempts. He finished with six points and four assists.