After a strong first half for the Los Angeles Lakers, the New Orleans Hornets were determined to stay in this game as long as possible.
The result was a 111-106 Lakers win on Tuesday night, but the Hornets made things tough down the stretch and made sure they got their money's worth when leaving Staples Center to head to the team bus.
Los Angeles was led by Earl Clark and Dwight Howard in the scoring department, but Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant combined for 16 assists to facilitate this new-look offense that Mike D'Antoni continues to tinker with.
Dwight Howard had 24 points, Clark added 20 and Antawn Jamison added 16 for the Lakers. Howard also added four blocks and five steals for L.A., looking like his old Defensive Player of the Year self—at least for one night.
Led by Eric Gordon and Greivis Vasquez, the Hornets made a late run and got within five before the Lakers stomped the final threat. Gordon had 25 points and made 6-of-8 three-pointers, while Vasquez added 15 points and 15 assists in the losing effort.
Rookie Anthony Davis had 18 points for the Hornets, while Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson both chipped in 16. The Lakers move to 20-25 with the win, while the Hornets drop to 15-30 with the loss.
Player of the Game: Lakers SF Earl Clark
Clark continues to impress people in Los Angeles, and for good reason. His versatility has allowed Mike D'Antoni to be more flexible in both the half-court and transition game, and Clark is proving he deserves his starting spot over Pau Gasol, who finished with a measly seven points in the win.
Clark had 20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists for the Lakers. He did have six turnovers, a number that is unacceptable going forward, but as he continues to grow in his new role, some of that has to be expected. Once again, Clark has saved the Lakers from a loss and vindicated the D'Antoni offense on another night.
Up Next for the Hornets
The Hornets will stay on the West side of the continent and travel to Utah late Tuesday night to prepare for a Wednesday night game against the Utah Jazz.
New Orleans will then travel to Denver and then Minnesota on Friday and Saturday, completing a tough road trip for the young club.
Up Next for the Lakers
Los Angeles begins a huge seven-game road trip on Wednesday night, as it travels to Phoenix. It will mark Steve Nash's first appearance in front of his old home crowd since being traded to the Lakers, and you can bet there will be some bittersweet feelings in a crowd feeling the effects of his departure.
L.A. will then move toward the East Coast, where games against Brooklyn, Boston and Miami await, before coming back to Staples Center on Feb. 12.