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Gasol leads Lakers past Hornets, 101-95
By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Feb 6, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Kobe Bryant(notes) wanted Pau Gasol(notes) to be selfish, and the All-Star center listened.

It was hard to argue with the result.

Gasol had a season-high 34 points to go with 10 rebounds, helping the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New Orleans Hornets 101-95 on Saturday night.

“I’m always in attack mode and it’s my responsibility to recognize things on the team that can help us,” Bryant said. “I felt like it was time to kind of have a talk with him and tell him it’s OK to be selfish because that’s really what we need from him.

“He has the skill to do it,” added Bryant, who recently made a comment to reporters that Gasol needed to more black swan than white swan—a reference to the hit film starring Natalie Portman. “I think it was just more of a mindset more than anything. He’s such a nice person. He wants other guys to be involved … but that’s not necessarily what’s best for our team.”

Bryant scored 32 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:20 left to give the Lakers the lead for good in what turned out to be a surprisingly frenetic struggle against the undermanned Hornets, who’ve now dropped all three games against the two-time defending champions this season.

Gasol hit 13 of 17 shots, scoring on dunks, driving floaters, putbacks and jumpers from all over.

“I’m trying,” Gasol said, referring to Bryant’s request that he be more aggressive. “I’ve got to continue to be aggressive, be assertive, just utlilize my talent, just make sure I’m doing what I’m capable of doing out there and not just watching.”

Chris Paul(notes) had 21 points and 15 assists as the Hornets, without starters Emeka Okafor(notes) and Trevor Ariza(notes), clawed back from a deficit as large as 14 to take a couple brief leads in the second half.

Paul’s driving floater tied it at 92 with 3:43 left, but the Lakers held New Orleans to a 3-pointer by Marco Belinelli(notes) the rest of the way.

David West(notes) had 16 points and 12 rebounds, but was limited to 31 minutes because of foul trouble. Marcus Thornton(notes) added 14 points and David Andersen(notes) 11 for New Orleans.

Andrew Bynum(notes) scored 12 points for the Lakers, who turned the ball over a season-low four times and were the stronger team inside, forcing the Hornets to foul frequently underneath. Los Angeles was 23 of 27 on free throws, while the Hornets were only 4 of 4 and did not go to the foul line in the second half.

Officials called 22 fouls on the Hornets, compared to only 11 on the Lakers, and the sellout crowd noticed, booing heartily when key calls went against New Orleans.

Hornets coach Monty Williams said a 27-4 disparity in free throw attempts is “hard to do in a pickup game.”

“For a game to be that physical and we only get four free throws, I just don’t understand,” Williams said. “Guys are just competing their butts off and I thought we deserved a little bit more whatever you want to call it.”

For West, the explanation was simpler.

“It comes down to the name on the front of the jersey and the name on the back of the jersey,” he said. “They get the benefit of the doubt, it’s just what we have to deal with. We know that. We just have to move on. That’s a crazy discrepancy.”

Still, the game didn’t start to get away from the Hornets until Lamar Odom(notes) tipped in Bryant’s missed jumper to make it 97-92 with 2:49 to go. The Lakers then got consecutive stops, and Gasol and Bryant each made a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds.

The Lakers came in having lost three of four, but two of the losses came against conference leaders Boston and San Antonio.

The Hornets also have been struggling, largely because of injuries, and now have lost four of five. Okafor has been out for a week with a strained left oblique muscle and his replacement, 7-footer Jason Smith(notes), was out with an illness against Los Angeles. Ariza was out with a sprained right ankle.

New Orleans started Aaron Gray(notes) at center and rookie Quincy Pondexter(notes) at small forward. Gray had season highs of 10 points and 10 rebounds in his first start since being acquired from Chicago last season.

Gasol had 19 points and Bryant 18 in the first half, and the Lakers used a 7-0 run in the second quarter, highlighted by Gasol’s dunk and Bryant’s transition 3, to go up by as much as 51-37.

West helped the Hornets prevent a blowout with 14 points and nine rebounds before the break and the Hornets closed to 56-50 on Thornton’s 3 at the halftime horn.

New Orleans appeared to be in trouble when West went to the bench with his fourth foul with 8:38 to go in the third and the Lakers up 62-53. Instead, the Hornets turned in a scrappy period, making 13 of 21 shots.

Paul followed Andersen’s 3 with two of his own late in the third quarter, the last giving the Hornets their first lead of the game at 82-81 in the last second of the third quarter.

NOTES: New Orleans’ newly acquired swingman Sasha Pavlovic(notes), who signed a 10-day contract on Friday, saw his first action late in the first quarter. He played nearly 10 minutes and had three assists and a rebound. … For Los Angeles, which is 16-8 away from home and snapped New Orleans’ seven-game home winning streak, the game was the first of a seven-game trip. It continues Monday at Memphis and includes stops at Boston, New York, Orlando, Charlotte and Cleveland. … Hornets reserve center D.J. Mbenga(notes) scored a season-high eight points.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 LA Lakers
P. Gasol Pau Gasol
13-17,  34 Pts
10 Rebs, 3 Assists
 New Orleans
C. Paul Chris Paul
8-11,  21 Pts
1 Rebs, 15 Assists

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Points
Rebounds
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Saturday, Feb 5