Lakers beat Hornets to move into eighth seed
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES – Metta World Peace was back on the bench again, pumping his fiery fists and imploring Pau Gasol to attack the paint and put an end to the Lakers’ latest night of torture.
The Lakers forward did just that, banging his way into the lane to draw the foul, hit the free throws with 1:38 left to put his squad up eight points and all but end the New Orleans Hornets’ impersonation of a formidable team. Lakers win 104-96, and their playoff push continues.
With Utah’s loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, the Lakers are – again, and for now – in possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Jazz have the tiebreaker, and games remaining against Minnesota (twice) and Memphis. The Lakers play at Portland on Wednesday night, a place where they have won just six times in 31 tries since 1996 and in a scenario – the second game on a back-to-back set – in which they’re just 5-10 this season. From there, they host Golden State, San Antonio and Houston.
World Peace’s inspiring and underrated spirit wasn’t stuck on the bench this time, though, as he returned to the court just 12 days after left knee surgery and put in 15 minutes of well-deserved fame (four points, no rebounds, one assist). Kobe Bryant, to the surprise of no one, was a wholly necessary part of the Lakers’ survival strategy as he scored 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter.
Gasol had 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Dwight Howard had 19 rebounds and just six rebounds. The Hornets were led by Eric Gordon (22 points), while forward Anthony Davis had 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Bryant was nowhere to be found through three quarters, hitting just two of seven shots while the Lakers made the Hornets look like the playoff team that they’re not. But as is almost always the case, he eventually awoke and brought the Lakers faithful that spent most of the night in nervous silence along with him. His three-pointer late in the third quarter was the … [For more on Lakers beat Hornets to move into eighth playoff spot, click here.]