April 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) watches from the bench during the first quarter against the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena. The Lakers defeated the Hornets 93-91. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Kobe Bryant didn't play, but the Lakers closed fast anyway, using a balanced attack late and a steady diet of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to capture the 93-91 win in New Orleans.
Kobe Bryant watched in street clothes as his L.A. Lakers fell behind by as many as eight points in New Orleans with less than nine minutes left in the game. But the Lakers' big men, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, pulled the Lakers through 93-91 Monday night.
The Lakers' comeback effort erased a terrific 10-point fourth quarter from Marco Belinelli, who tied for a team-high 20 points with Carl Landry, who also popped in two big buckets late in the game. It was the seventh time all year Belinelli hit the 20-point mark for a game.
Gasol (10-21, 25 points, nine rebounds) and Bynum (7-17, 18 points, 11 rebounds) pounded the Hornets down low, eventually getting Chris Kaman into fourth-quarter foul trouble and accounted for 15 of the Lakers' 26 free throw attempts on the night, out-numbering the entire Hornets team for free throws attempted as New Orleans only shot 10 free throws for the game and none in the fourth quarter. The Gasol/Bynum tandem also equaled the Hornets offensive rebounding total for the game with eight.
The score was tied at 86 with two minutes left, but Kaman had his shot blocked by Gasol, which turned into a Metta World Peace three-pointer with 91 seconds left in the game. The Hornets stayed offensively passive, not going back inside and instead missing two more jump shots before the Lakers grabbed the loose ball and took possession again.
Kaman, who had five blocks, deflected a Bynum attempt inside, but the ball stayed with L.A., leading to a Ramon Sessions catch and shoot three off the inbounds play, barely beating the shot clock buzzer and stretching the lead to six with 26 seconds left. For the game, Sessions scored 17 points and led the Lakers with six assists.
Grevis Vasquez snapped off a quick three-pointer to make the lead three again, but the Hornets chose not to foul on the inbounds until there was only nine seconds left. In the process, they missed their chance to foul World Peace, a 58-percent free throw shooter, and instead nicked Gasol, a 78-percent shooter from the line this season.
Gasol had previously gakked two fourth-quarter free throws and he made only one of two that time, giving the Hornets the ball with 8.6 seconds left. Off the inbounds play, they couldn't get a shooter free, however, and Chris Kaman had to make a desperate drive to the hoop to score the 'quick' bucket to cut the lead to two. Between the long time to foul on the Lakers' possession and the time it took to get the two points on their end, the Hornets only left 1.2 seconds for a miracle to happen.
The miracle nearly happened as World Peace threw a very chancy pass into the backcourt to Matt Barnes. But Barnes was not alone in the backcourt, as the Hornets' Jason Smith was back defending Barnes. The ball rolled down the court, with no time coming off the clock when Smith went for the ball. But Smith couldn't quite get it, just evading his reach and Barnes ran out the clock, holding the Lakers victory.
Over at Silver Screen and Roll, Actuarially Sound was praising the Kobe-less closing by the men in Purple and Gold:
The Lakers converted on 8 of the 11 possessions for a total of 19 points. Six different players converted a basket and five different players recorded an assist. It was one of the most offensively efficient stretches of basketball they have played all year. To do that in crunch time, when the offense usually becomes stagnant, and to do it through a complete team effort instead of riding a hot hand was a thing of beauty. The offense wasn't the only area that stepped up though, the defense was very good as well.
Read more about the Hornets At The Hive.
For all of Monday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.