for this game

Bryant, Paul faceoff in critical West matchup

Apr 11, 2008 - 2:51 PM New Orleans (55-23) at LA Lakers (54-25) 10:30 pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets will look to add some distance in the Western Conference standings when they visit Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers, Friday.

In perhaps one of the closest MVP races in recent years, Paul gets the opportunity to prove he is worthy enough to receive the NBA's top honor on Bryant's home floor.

Paul enters leading the league in assists (11.5) and steals (2.7) as well as having the Hornets atop the West standings by 1 1/2 games over the Lakers.

Bryant, on the other hand, continues to amaze crowds with his impressive all-around skills. The 6-6 guard has three NBA rings and two scoring titles, but has yet to capture MVP honors after 11 Hall of Fame like seasons.

Bryant scored 16 points in limited action as the Lakers coasted to a 106-78 triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.

"It's important to have a big game like this where guys can kinda sit down and rest, and get ready for (Friday)," said Bryant, who owns career averages of 24.5 points against New Orleans in 28 meetings.

The Hornets have won two of the three meetings in the series, including an 118-104 victory at the Staples Center behind 19 points and 21 assists by Paul.