It had the makings of an unusual game when a quiet chant of "M-V-P" started in the first period . . . for Lamar Odom.
The Lakers took it from there, sporting several different quirks, playing possum in the first two quarters, then sending clear notice of their arrival in the third quarter, then shrinking way back in the fourth before finally getting past the New Orleans Hornets in overtime, 115-111, Friday at Staples Center.
If it seemed fatiguing, it was, the Lakers avoiding a loss in regulation only after Derek Fisher made a three-pointer that tied the score at 98-98 with 14.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and Chris Paul missed a 22-footer with 0.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
If it seemed riveting, it was that too, the Lakers clinching victory only after Kobe Bryant made two free throws that both danced around the rim before falling through for the final four-point edge with 3.5 seconds left in overtime.
If the Lakers seemed both enthralled and exhausted afterward, they were.
Bryant lifted his arm exuberantly but also gestured respectfully to Paul, his Olympic teammate, down at the other end of the court.
Bryant shook off a ragged shooting night by scoring 11 points in overtime. He finished with 39 points on 13-for-30 shooting.
"We have strong will," Odom said. "Last season was a long season but it taught us a lot. We think we can pull out a win."
Odom continued to be more of an MVR (Most Valuable Rebounder) than MVP, taking 17 boards against the Hornets to continue his recent surge in the category.
Pau Gasol came close to his second triple-double this week -- 20 points, 12 rebounds and six assists -- as the Lakers improved to a league-best 45-10.
The Hornets (32-21) accepted donations from secondary sources, gladly taking 31 points from Rasual Butler, who was within two of his career high while relieving the ineffective Peja Stojakovic, who had five points on woeful two-for-11 shooting.
Several months ago, when the NBA season was fresh and new, the Lakers and Hornets were trendy picks to slug it out in the Western Conference finals. But the Hornets have been awash in inconsistency, lingering near the fifth and sixth spots in the West.
The Lakers had a weird deal going with the Hornets to begin with, winning twice in New Orleans this season but losing by 11 at Staples Center last month. In that game, Paul had 32 points and 15 assists, and David West bested Pau Gasol with a 40-point night.
Paul was his usual self against the Lakers, collecting 21 points and 16 assists, though he fouled out with 1:32 left in overtime after trying to steal the ball from Bryant on a double-team.
The Hornets were definitely in the game after the first half, standing by as Bryant hoisted 16 first-half shots and made only five. The Hornets trailed at halftime, 45-41.
The Lakers, however, appeared to run away with the game in a strong third quarter, outscoring the Hornets, 34-25, and leading at one point, 77-61.
But the Lakers discovered their inner selves from earlier this season, and not in the way that would please their fans.
They blew a large lead, as they habitually did back in December, and the Hornets were right back in the game.
"We need to do a much better job of protecting a chunk of that," Odom said.
In fact, two free throws by Chris Paul gave the Hornets a 95-93 lead with 3:21 left in the fourth quarter.