NEW ORLEANS -- Kobe Bryant matched a season high with 42 points, including 18 in a furious 33-9 fourth-quarter comeback, to power the Los Angeles Lakers to a 108-102 victory over the New Orleans Hornets Wednesday night at the New Orleans Arena.
The Lakers, who trailed by as many 25 points in the first half and were in a 93-72 hole late in the third quarter, never gave up.
Bryant started the comeback quietly with three free throws in the final 34 seconds of the third quarter to draw the Lakers within 93-75. Still, the Hornets looked in the clear when Ryan Anderson rebounded a missed 3-pointer for a dunk, and Robin Lopez blocked Dwight Howard on the next time down the court, leading to an alley-oop dunk by Al-Farouq Aminu for a 100-83 lead with 5:40 left.
But the Lakers refused to quit, going on a 14-2 run to close the deficit to 102-97 with 3:38 left. In the surge, Bryant hit a 3-pointer and Jodie Meeks added two more from long range. Bryant also had a dunk after a strong drive in the lane.
Meeks added another 3, and after a shot clock violation, Bryant tied the game 102-102 with a drive in the lane past Lopez. At that point, the Los Angeles run, which started at the end of the third quarter, was 30-9.
Bryant put the Lakers ahead for good with a fall-away 15-foot jumper with 36.3 seconds left. He added a dunk on a great inbounds pass from Steve Blake with 23.6 seconds remaining.
The Hornets placed seven players in double figures, led by Eric Gordon with 18. But they scored only nine points in the fourth quarter.
After surrendering a season-high 71 points in the first half against Oklahoma City on Tuesday, the Lakers played another atrocious half of defense, yielding 67 to the Hornets in the opening 24 minutes. The 67 points were the most in any half this season for the Hornets.
The Hornets led by as many 25 points, 63-38, with 2:13 left in the first half, which is when Bryant decided to try to take things into his own hands. Bryant scored nine of the Lakers' final 10 points of the half, making 5 of 6 free throws, and had 17 points at intermission, and the Lakers trimmed the deficit to 67-48.
The Hornets outscored the Lakers 39-20 in the second quarter, their best single-quarter output of the season, penetrating easily against the Lakers' soft defense.
New Orleans spread the ball around in the first half, six players scoring seven or more points. Gordon missed his first four jumpers of the game and had two turnovers, but then he hit consecutive 3-pointers to find his shooting range.
Gordon led the Hornets with 11 first-half points, and Aminu added 10. The Hornets held a 26-9 edge in bench scoring, with rookie Austin Rivers scoring 10, Anderson nine and Roger Mason seven. Rivers did not return in the second half after injuring his right hand.
NOTES: A sure sign of the Lakers' woes this season in simply battling to get back to .500 was coach Mike D'Antoni's lighthearted response to a question during a pregame news conference. "Can you tell us about your injuries?" a reporter asked. D'Antoni smiled and said, "I feel good, thank you." ... D'Antoni said Bryant's right elbow was sore, "but he is good." Dwight Howard (torn labrum in his right shoulder) and Metta World Peace (right ankle) both played. ... The Lakers aren't getting any younger, but D'Antoni didn't think playing the second game of back-to-backs should pose a challenge. "We haven't played a lot of games in the last two weeks," D'Antoni said. "We got to sleep about 3:30 or 4. What's that, 1:30 West Coast time? They don't get to bed before 1:30 anyway." ... Before Wednesday night's game, the Lakers were 2 1/2 games behind Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. "The rest of the games are important," D'Antoni said. "Hopefully we can understand the importance and the level of intensity there has to be." ... In his previous four games, Hornets guard Gordon has had hot-shooting first halves and then been nearly invisible in the second half. "A lot of time Eric gets off to a great start, so teams go in at halftime and say, 'We've got to key on him. Let's try to take him out of his rhythm,'" Hornets coach Monty Williams said. "I need to do a better job getting him more open. It's not all Eric."