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87

Lakers-Hornets Preview

AP - Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers badly need a victory Wednesday night considering the location of the final stop of this week's road trip.

The Lakers will try to avoid their second three-game skid and could again be without Pau Gasol as they take on the New Orleans Hornets.

Los Angeles (8-10) led by as many as 17 points and was still up 13 in the fourth quarter before falling 107-105 at Houston on Tuesday to open a three-game trip.

After allowing 40 fourth-quarter points in Sunday's 113-103 defeat to Orlando, the Lakers gave up 34 in the final period against the Rockets. Dwight Howard did not have a shot attempt in the fourth Tuesday as Houston intentionally fouled him, and he made 8 of 16 free throws overall.

"People are going to say whatever they want to say, but at the end of the day, go back and look at the game,'' Howard said. "The reason we lost was not my free throws. That didn't lose us the game. Our defense was not there in the fourth quarter.''

Gasol, averaging a career-low 12.6 points and 8.8 rebounds this season, is day to day after sitting out due to tendinitis in both knees. He said the condition has not improved since training camp.

"We just kept it under control and I was hoping that we would see some kind of improvement, and some kind of pain relief,'' he said. "But it hasn't happened."

Veteran Antawn Jamison had 15 points and nine rebounds in Gasol's place in the starting lineup Tuesday.

The Lakers have won seven straight regular-season meetings over the Hornets (5-11) as they try to improve upon a 1-2 mark in the second half of games on consecutive nights. This road trip ends Friday at Oklahoma City, with the NBA-leading Thunder on a six-game win streak.

New Orleans remains without top overall draft pick Anthony Davis, who has missed the last eight games with a left ankle injury.

The Hornets are continuing a five-game homestand in which they lost the first two games before cruising to Monday's 102-81 rout of Milwaukee. New Orleans turned in its second-best shooting performance at 52.4 percent and also its second-best effort in field-goal percentage defense at 38.2.

"We have to play hard and we have to defend," coach Monty Williams said. "When we defend like that, it gives us a chance to shoot easy buckets and that is how you get close to 50 percent (shooting). You're getting a lot of layups."

The Hornets know the rest of the week will be difficult with this homestand concluding Friday against Memphis before a trip to Miami the next day.

"With the next two games, which are big ones, we have to go out there with the same energy and use it in a positive way," rookie guard Austin Rivers said.

Rivers and the Hornets will try to slow down Kobe Bryant, averaging a league-best 27.9 points. Bryant scored 39 on Tuesday, with the Lakers falling to 1-7 when he nets at least 30.

Bryant is 13 points shy of becoming the fifth player in NBA history with 30,000.

Los Angeles is 3-5 under new coach Mike D'Antoni.

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