LOS ANGELES -- Maybe Monty Williams has the right idea.
The NBA has tried and failed to cover Kobe Bryant for more than 17 years and 30,000 points. Perhaps it's time for teams to open up their cupboards, as if that will matter.
"You can cover Kobe in Saran Wrap; I don't know that's going to change anything," Williams said on Tuesday night after Bryant torched his New Orleans Hornets for 23 fourth-quarter points in a 104-96 Los Angeles Lakers win at Staples Center. "Xavier (Henry) was there each shot. One time, Kobe shot a rainbow; I don't know what you do about that. The three he hit, Xavier was right in his face. To say, put somebody else on him, I think you guys are reaching. In those situations, you just have to try not to let him get the ball. It's hard to even do that."
Especially when the Lakers the Lakers know their season may hang by Bryant's shoestrings.
Clinging to the Western Conference No. 8 seed by a half-game over Utah, which fell to Oklahoma City, 90-80, on Tuesday, Los Angeles stared at yet another loss to a subpar squad.
The Lakers turned to Bryant, as they have so many times before, and Bryant came through, as he has so many times before.
Bryant had 26 points in the second half after the Lakers entered halftime woozy and wobbly following a big New Orleans run.
Los Angeles found itself in prime position early, building a 27-22 first quarter lead after holding the Hornets to just 38 percent shooting. The Lakers led by as much as 10 midway through the second quarter before going ice cold as New Orleans went on a tear.
The Hornets used a 17-2 stretch to end the first half to take a 50-45 lead into the break as Eric Gordon lit up, scoring 13 points during the spurt. New Orleans outscored the Lakers 28-18 in the second quarter, holding Los Angeles to 38 percent shooting.
"Mostly during that point, we were playing really good defense, getting stops, said Gordon. The more we play a high-tempo, fast pace -- that's something we need to more of."
The Lakers dictated the pace late in the game behind Bryant.
The venerable star scored seven straight points to open the fourth quarter, then had 10 points during a mid-quarter stretch as Los Angeles broke the game open with a 10-2 run.
"Tonight they keyed on my penetration, but I know I could range over the defense and get the shot," Bryant said. "With games like this, when the jumper is falling, you have fourth quarters like I had."
Added Pau Gasol: "We had to step up our intensity, our aggressiveness, our determination. We came out way too flat in the first half, and we had to step it up."
Bryant finished with 30 points on 9-of-18 shooting and added six rebounds and six assists. Gasol added 22 points and 11 rebounds, Dwight Howard had 19 points and six rebounds and Antawn Jamison had 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench for the Lakers.
"They did a good job finding us," Howard said about the Los Angeles backcourt. "We missed a lot of easy shots tonight, but I thought it was pretty effective, wearing down their bigs, especially late in the game. We just have to keep doing a good job of going inside."
Gordon had 22 points to lead New Orleans and rookie center Anthony Davis had 18 points and 14 rebounds. Greivis Vasquez added 11 points and 11 assists and Ryan Anderson added 14 points off the bench.
NOTES: The Lakers remain plagued by injuries as Steve Nash (hamstring) and Jordan Hill (hip) missed the game and Bryant (foot), Pau Gasol (foot), Dwight Howard (shoulder), Antawn Jamison (wrist) and Metta World Peace (knee) played through pain. ... Austin Rivers (hand) and Jason Smith (labrum) remain out for the Hornets. ... Los Angeles entered the game with a 3-0 season series lead over New Orleans after sweeping the Hornets the last two seasons. The Lakers entered the game on an 8-2 streak against New Orleans. ... Bryant had 42 points in the Lakers' 108-102 March 6 win over New Orleans as Los Angeles came from 25 behind in the fourth quarter. ... Davis leads the NBA in double-doubles with 18 and Vasquez leads the NBA in total assists with 687 entering the game. The duo leads the NBA in field goals assisted by one player as Vasquez has assisted nearly 48 percent of Davis' 335 field goals. ... Vasquez's 24 double-doubles rank second among guards in the NBA. ... Bryant's 25 points in a 109-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on April 7 put him above the 2,000-point mark for the eighth time in his career. He became just the fourth player in history to score 2,000 points after turning 34 and eclipsed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth on the career scoring list earlier this year.