for this game

Lakers flip Hornets to set up showdown with Celtics

Dec 24, 2008 - 4:51 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Lakers prepped for their Christmas Day showdown with the Boston Celtics in fine fashion.

Kobe Bryant scored 26 points and Pau Gasol added 20 as the Lakers tripped the New Orleans Hornets, 100-87, on Tuesday.

"We're in great rhythm," Bryant said. "The season is a long season so you're going to have peaks and valleys."

Completing a road stretch of four games in five days, the Lakers made quick work of the Hornets, bursting to a 19-point halftime lead and hitting cruise control until late in the fourth quarter.

"I thought we sustained our effort against (Chris) Paul, trying to keep him out of the paint," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think the big deal is David West. We really wanted to get that matchup the right way, and Pau (Gasol) has done a good job on him before. I thought that really helped tonight."

The Lakers held off a late surge by New Orleans that saw the Hornets cut their deficit to 95-85 in the final two minutes on Paul's 3-pointer.

"We did a good job on our rotations, looking down lanes and getting to shooters," Bryant said. "It was a good game for us. The last two times we've been here we had big leads and gave them away. We had to battle this one out. Even though they made a run, it felt good to keep them at bay where the game wasn't threatened."

The Lakers held a huge edge at the foul line, hitting 28-of-32 compared to 14-of-22 for New Orleans.

"We got so emotionally involved in the game that we stopped playing against the Lakers and started moaning and groaning about every call," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "As a young group, we can't get that emotionally involved in the game and we've got to play better basketball."

Jackson wasn't pleased with the team's schedule heading into the showdown with the defending champion Celtics, who bounced the Lakers in the NBA Finals in June. But he was thrilled with the effort against a tough New Orleans team at the end of the road trip - at least for one half.

"I didn't like our second half too much," Jackson said. "I think our first half was very good, we played right and we did a lot of good things."

The Lakers went on a 9-0 burst to take control in the second quarter. With the score 29-28, Los Angeles erupted.

"They're really disciplined," West said. "They come down and they really get what they want on the offensive (end) and they really make you defend them."

The Lakers closed the half with an 11-2 surge to take a 19-point lead at the break. That spurt was capped when Gasol sank a jumper from the arc with 21 seconds left.

"Two of our worst games have been against this team," Scott said. "It could be us. It could be them. It could be both."

Gasol had 16 points at the break and the Lakers got 22 from their bench, led by Trevor Ariza with nine in 13 minutes.

Paul had five steals in the first 24 minutes. He finished with 17 points, 10 assists and 6 steals.

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