Hornets-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

Kobe Bryant pointed to transition defense as the biggest reason the Los Angeles Lakers were unable to slow down the Western Conference's top team last time out.

The Pacific Division-leading Lakers should have better luck in that department Saturday night against an offensively challenged New Orleans Hornets team that will likely be shorthanded.

Facing high-powered Oklahoma City on Thursday, Los Angeles (31-20) allowed the Thunder to score 25 fast-break points in a 102-93 loss. Oklahoma City, one of the league's highest-scoring teams, got 12 of those fast-break points in the third quarter when the Lakers were outscored 34-19.

"It's just the transition baskets and giving them opportunities that hurt us," Bryant said.

While Los Angeles struggled to keep Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in check, it doesn't seem like it should have as much trouble containing New Orleans.

The Hornets (13-38), who are one of the league's worst scoring teams at 89.2 points per game, are last in fast-break scoring at 8.9 per game. Making matters worse, New Orleans could be without three of its top five scorers in Jarrett Jack (sprained right ankle), who averages a team-best 15.6 points, Chris Kaman (flu) and Trevor Ariza (sore right ankle). Kaman, who averages 13.3 points, has been sidelined for four straight games, while Ariza, averaging 11.0 points, has missed three of four.

The Hornets, led by Jack's 30 points, took the Lakers to overtime in their lone meeting March 14 at New Orleans Arena, but Los Angeles was coming off a double-overtime win in Memphis the night before and fatigue could have been a factor. Bryant finished with 33 points, while Andrew Bynum added 25 and 18 rebounds to lead the Lakers to their fifth straight win in the series and eighth in nine games.

Bynum is coming off an encouraging performance against Oklahoma City finishing with 25 points and 13 rebounds for his first double-double in six games. The All-Star center, who is tied for third in the league with 32 double-doubles, seemed to be motivated from being benched for the final nine minutes of Tuesday's win over Golden State.

While Bynum could be turning the corner, Bryant had another rough night. He ended with 23 points on 7-of-25 shooting - the fifth time in seven games he shot less than 39.0 percent.

That typically spells trouble for the Lakers, who are 7-11 when he shoots 39.0 percent or less compared to 24-9 when he eclipses that mark. The 14-time All-Star has shot better than 43.3 percent in each of his last 10 games against the Hornets.

New Orleans arrives in Los Angeles to conclude a four-game road trip after Thursday's 99-93 loss to Portland, its third in four games. Marco Belinelli had 27 points and Carl Landry scored 24 for the Hornets, who had eight players available for the game.

"My guys fought and that's all you can ask," coach Monty Williams said. "We've got eight guys going up against a talented team and it goes down to the wire, there's not much you can say about your team. We had a chance to win and just didn't pull it out when we needed it.''

Belinelli, who averages 11.8 points, and Landry, who averages 12.5, are each coming off back-to-back 20 point performances.

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