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Hill comes up big as Lakers pound Pelicans

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Opportunity knocked, and Jordan Hill answered.

The Lakers power forward scored a career-best 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, sparking Los Angeles to a 116-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans before a crowd of 18,426 at Staples Center on Tuesday night.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game Hill would start because of his energy. Hill used his frequent bursts of activity and boosted the Lakers on a second-quarter spurt that allowed them to take a double-digit lead and cruise.

D'Antoni couldn't have scripted his game plan any better.

"When I go in there, I have to rebound. That's what I'm known for, rebounding and energy," said Hill, who started for the first time this season. "I just want to go out there and do what I've been doing."

Hill's play helped the Lakers (4-5) snap a two-game losing streak and avenge last Friday's setback to the Pelicans (3-5), who lost their second in a row.

"Like I've said the whole time, this is a good group of guys," D'Antoni said. "We've stressed it before, but maybe today they realized what it's going to take to win. I think Jordan Hill being in the first group definitely helped with his energy, and Wesley Johnson set the tone a little bit defensively. Everyone picked it up. I thought everyone contributed tonight."

Guard Nick Young scored 17 points and guard Xavier Henry added 15, providing the Lakers a strong bench effort. Henry also got the crowd roaring late in the third quarter when he posterized Pelicans 7-foot rookie center Jeff Withey, a fellow ex-Kansas player, with a slam.

"That was a heck of a dunk," D'Antoni said.

Guard Jodie Meeks scored 15 points and Pau Gasol finished with 14 points and eight rebounds for Los Angeles, but much of the postgame conversation centered around the 6-10 Hill.

"He's a good guy to lean on if you need a jolt of energy," D'Antoni said.

That jolt also included him contributing to an efficient outing by Gasol, who struggled offensively recently. The 7-foot Spaniard and Hill played off each other well Tuesday and dictated inside against the Pelicans' frontline.

"We're both great rebounders," Hill said. "I focus on rolling more and definitely pick and pop. He can definitely drive, and when he drives, the defense collapses. I'm wide open. He always dishes off to me. It's definitely a (good) combo for us. We just have to keep doing it."

A 20-4 run to open the second quarter gave the Lakers a 42-23 lead. They kept matters in hand from that point on as the Pelicans were unable to make a dent in the deficit.

New Orleans forward Anthony Davis picked up his third foul midway through the second period. Hill scored nine of his points in the second, helping the Lakers build a 55-39 advantage at the half. Hill also had six rebounds as Los Angeles outrebounded New Orleans 24-13 before the break. Overall, the Lakers had a 53-31 rebounding edge.

Guard Eric Gordon led the Pelicans with 17 points. Davis, who entered the game averaging 21.7 points and 11.6 rebounds, scored 15 points and had just five rebounds. Davis delivered a career-high 32 points plus 12 rebounds and six blocks when the Pelicans defeated the Lakers four days earlier, but foul trouble limited him this time.

Guard Tyreke Evans scored 11 points for New Orleans.

NOTES: New Orleans reserve C Greg Stiemsma left the game late in the second quarter with a left leg injury. ... Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni shuffled his starting lineup for the sixth time in nine games, starting PF Jordan Hill and SF Wesley Johnson for the first time with SG Jodie Meeks, who replaced G Steve Nash (back). Hill had 13 rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench in the Lakers' 96-85 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 8. PG Steve Blake and C Pau Gasol are the only Lakers to start each contest. ... The Lakers resume play Wednesday with a game in Denver against the Nuggets. ... New Orleans visits the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. ... The Pelicans signed free agent SF Josh Childress and PF Lou Amundson on Tuesday. To make room, the club waived SF Lance Thomas and PF Arinze Onuaku. ... The Lakers beat the Hornets/Pelicans 11 straight before dropping last week's decision.
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