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Lakers still keep it real

They make a statement with 109-80 drubbing of the Hornets, but they're very much aware of last season's fall and a long, difficult trip that looms ahead.

January 10, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Times Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS -- The resume of the 2007-08 Lakers, smudged and illegible before the season began, was polished and sharpened yet again, another positive reference added to an already growing list of them.

The Lakers toyed with the New Orleans Hornets, thoroughly drubbing another surprise team in the Western Conference with a 109-80 victory Wednesday at New Orleans Arena.

Their starters were solid, their reserves dominant, and the Lakers collected their 14th victory in the last 17 games.

Surprise, surprise, surprise?

It might be if the Lakers hadn't already toppled Phoenix twice, Denver twice, Utah twice, Detroit, Golden State, Houston and a depleted San Antonio team.

It might be if they hadn't led the entire way for the fifth time in their last 12 games.

It might be if they hadn't rolled past a Hornets team that had won eight of nine, including back-to-back road victories over Phoenix and Golden State.

A fluke or a fixture?

"Once you start playing the same way all the time, it's like a team is a team," said forward Lamar Odom, who had 11 points. "That's how we feel right now, like we're going out and we're playing the same way all the time. Tonight, four or five guys in double figures, guys with nine, nine, eight, nine. Everybody's chipping in. Everybody's having fun right now."

Kobe Bryant had 19 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and a broad grin when he came off the floor with 5:02 to play, the Lakers holding a 101-76 lead and Hornets fans heading for the exits.

Afterward, he was businesslike and unexcitable.

"We're playing well," he said. "I think we can play much better. We're just going to pocket these wins and go from there. It's a good road win. Now it's time to go home and take care of business there."

The Lakers (23-11) made their first eight shots, took a 16-4 lead, and pushed onward from there.

If revenge exists in the NBA in January, it took place Wednesday.

The Lakers were thrashed by the Hornets in the fourth game of the season, 118-104, as Chris Paul compiled 21 assists and Peja Stojakovic made 10 three-pointers, a record for a Lakers opponent.

This time around, Stojakovic had nine points and made one of four three-pointers. Paul had an impressive 32 points but only five assists as the Lakers took away his passing lanes. The Hornets (23-12) had 12 assists as a team, the Lakers 25.

"We're getting good," Jordan Farmar said. "We've just got to keep it going. Momentum is what Phil Jackson preaches a lot -- in games and in the whole season. We have a lot of momentum right now."

It seemed like two things were standing in the way of the Lakers fully congratulating themselves -- the specter of last season and the spectacle of a lengthy trip beginning at the end of the month.

Their well-chronicled collapse after a 26-13 start a year ago has them almost biting their collective tongues.

"I don't think I really have to say anything because they all remember it," Jackson said. "They remember how well they played at the beginning of the season and how fast you can fall if things don't work for you."

If that's the case, Jackson managed a slight slip before the game -- "Yes, we're very much a surprise team," he said -- but covered his tracks quickly.

"We still have a nine-game road trip at the end of this month that we go on that will measure what our season will be like," he said.

The Lakers now have three games against sub.-500 teams -- Milwaukee, Memphis and Seattle -- before facing five playoff-caliber types: Phoenix, Denver, San Antonio, Dallas and Cleveland.

If they're short on motivation, they can always pop in a DVD of Wednesday's effort.

Andrew Bynum had 17 points on eight-for-10 shooting and nine rebounds against defense-minded center Tyson Chandler. He also unveiled an array of post moves.

He made a turn-around from the left block over Chandler, left-handed. He made a right-handed bank from the right post over Chandler. Then, off the dribble, he made an eight-foot floater in the lane and left his hand in the air an extra few seconds for added effect.

It gave the Lakers an 84-68 lead at the end of the third quarter.

"He didn't catch me by surprise," Chandler said. "I looked at the scouting report. I know he's big and I watched tape on him and I know they throw him the ball a lot. He had a good night."

Chandler had 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Lakers' reserves outscored those of the Hornets, 42-9, with Trevor Ariza (10 points, seven rebounds) and Farmar (nine points, four assists) leading the way.

Bryant was efficient, making eight of 16 shots and committing only one turnover. He didn't need to do anything beyond that.

"He really didn't hurt us," Hornets forward David West said. "I thought it was those other guys."

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Tale of two games

A comparison between Wednesday night's Lakers victory over New Orleans and the loss to the Hornets at Staples Center on Nov. 6.

*--* JAN. 9: LAKERS 109, HORNETS 80 PLAYER PTS REB AST FGM-A Kobe Bryant 19 7 7 8-16 Andrew Bynum 17 9 4 8-10 Chris Paul 32 3 5 13-23 Peja Stojakovic 9 4 0 4-11 Key stat: Hornets made one of 11 shots from three-point range. NOV. 6: HORNETS 118, LAKERS 104 PLAYER PTS REB AST FGM-A Chris Paul 19 3 21 7-18 Peja Stojakovic 36 5 0 12-21 Kobe Bryant 28 6 7 11-20 Andrew Bynum 8 13 1 4-10 Key stat: Hornets made 14 of 25 from three-point range, 10 by Stojakovic. *--*

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