for this game

Bryant, Lakers hold off Hornets

Nov 13, 2008 - 5:32 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- In a matchup of two of the best in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers looked like the class of the conference for three quarters on Wednesday.

Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets staged a late rally to make it close, but Kobe Bryant scored 11 of his 20 points in the fourth, including a key 3-pointer with 68 seconds left as the Lakers emerged with a 93-86 victory to stay unbeaten.

"We're getting off to a good start," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. "This kind of helps get us going."

The two teams are the popular pick to meet in the Western Conference finals this season, although the first 36 minutes Wednesday were about as one-sided as things could get.

The defense for Los Angeles stymied Paul and the Hornets in the first half, limiting the All-Star point guard to just eight points and four assists while holding New Orleans to a season-low 30 first-half points.

"I thought our defense played very well," Jackson said. "We didn't convert all of the fast-break opportunities that we had. That kind of came back and haunted us a little bit towards the latter part of the game.

"They figured it out in the second half and came out and played pretty well."

Trailing by 19 with nine minutes left to play, the Hornets scored seven straight points to cut the deficit to 12, but two free throws by Bryant pushed the Lakers' lead back to 16 with 5:21 to go.

Paul had nine points and a pair of assists as part of a 15-2 run that pulled the Hornets within three, 83-80, with 1:33 remaining in the fourth.

But with the shot clock winding down and James Posey in his face, Bryant stepped back and sank a 3-pointer to double the deficit, and the Lakers made 7-of-8 from the line down the stretch to ice the victory.

"I'm never surprised to see him (Bryant) do anything," Fisher said. "I said several years ago that he's one of those rare guys in the history of the game I think can actually make the ball go in.

"When it's a tough shot and three people are on him and he's falling away mentally he's able to lock in on that rim and get the ball in the basket. I think that's what separates him from some of the best to ever play."

Fisher knocked down four shots from behind the arc en route to a season-high 20 points and Los Angeles also got 14 points apiece from Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.

"Derek had a big game," Jackson said. "He made some clutch threes early and made the play late at the end."

Paul had 30 points, 13 assists and seven rebounds for the Hornets while David West recorded his first double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds. With Atlanta's loss in Boston, Los Angeles is left as the lone team in the NBA without a loss.

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