Hornets 118, Lakers 104

The game looked as though it was heading for an exciting finish until Peja Stojakovic took over. Then it was pass, shoot, 3-pointer, repeat. Peja’s shooting rattled the Lakers, who nonetheless kept leaving him open for good looks. Perhaps they forgot all his years in Sacramento?

All in all, not a real great effort for the Lakers. This was one game in which it was evident how much they miss Lamar Odom’s all-around game. With him out there, it might have been a different result. But the Lakers’ offense just never looked totally in sync, and give credit to the Hornets for an efficient offense that never let the Lakers’ defense get settled. Make no mistake, New Orleans has the ability to make some noise in the NBA this season.

Stojakovic finished with a game-high 36 points and Chris Paul had 19 points and 21 assists in a tremendous effort. Kobe Bryant had 28 points for the Lakers but their other four starters combined for only 39 points. Derek Fisher had foul trouble throughout, Chris Mihm looked overwhelmed early and where was Luke Walton tonight? Ronny Turiaf was solid with 15 points and Andrew Bynum once again had his great moments, with eight points and 13 rebounds, but he also left a couple easy baskets on the rim. Jordan Farmar fared well, with 11 points, but he also went 5 of 12 from the field and seemed to be forcing things at times.

The Lakers return to the court Friday against Minnesota at Staples Center. Odom and Kwame Brown are likely to be back but Maurice Evans is expected to miss that game.

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Hornets 89, Lakers 80

It’s the Peja Stojakovic show out there right now. He’s getting open for 3-pointers and knocking them down consistently, and he has 30 points through three quarters. The Lakers will have to tighten up their defense and get some inside play going on offense. Otherwise, they will fall to 1-2 at home and the Hornets will be off to a 4-0 start. Then again, this is the fourth quarter so you can bet Kobe Bryant will have something to say about the outcome. The Lakers are actually outshooting the Hornets at this point, 46 percent to 45 percent.

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Nice run

The teams exchanged the lead seven times in the first three minutes of the third quarter before the Lakers went on a run and built a 68-63 lead. Good ball movement and high percentage shots, but the Hornets have rallied with a West 3-pointer and a West short jumper. The game is tied 68-68, midway through the third quarter.

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Wanted man

Word out of Chicago is that, with the Bulls so far wilting under big preseason expectations, fans in the United Center have taken to chanting Kobe Bryant’s name during games. The Bulls are 0-4 after tonight’s loss to the 3-0 Clippers.

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Hornets 57-55

Its not natural to think of New Orleans as an NBA powerhouse team, but it might be time.

The Hornets, who started this season with three consecutive victories, looked solid on both ends of the court Tuesday night and held a 57-55 lead over the Lakers at halftime at Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant had 11 points and was the only Laker to score in double figures in the first half. Andrew Bynum had four points and nine rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench.

Peja Stojakovic led the Hornets with 13 points.

The Lakers, playing without both Kwame Brown and Maurice Evans, played with little offensive rhythm in the first quarter. Much like in the last two games, the second unit came in and provided a boost, but every time the Lakers staged a mini-rally, the Hornets had an answer and maintained a slim lead.

The Lakers scored six points in the final 33 seconds of the first half, and thought they had tied the game just before halftime. With 1.1 seconds left, Luke Waltons full-court pass found Ronny Turiaf, who scored on a layup, but a video review showed that Turiaf released the ball just after time expired.

Brown is out with a heel injury, but is expected to return for Fridays game. Chris Mihm started at center in place of Brown. Evans, who has a sore back, might also miss Fridays game.

The Lakers missed Brown, particularly since Mihm was in effective in eight first-quarter minutes. Coach Phil Jackson was reluctant to start Bynum, under the theory that Bynum would be more effective with his minutes limited, but Bynum clearly outplayed Mihm in the first half and provided a boost.

New Orleans, which led by 10 after one quarter, saw its lead trimmed to four on Vladimir Radmanovics 3-pointer three minutes into the quarter, but the Hornets quickly regained a 42-32 lead.

The Lakers twice more cut the Hornets lead to four points. The Hornets led 55-49 with one minute remaining, but Walton hit a 3-pointer and then Bryant was fouled on a 3-point attempt.

Bryant made all three free throws but Chris Paul made a layup with 1.1 seconds left for a 57-55 lead.

Injuries couldnt be totally blamed for the Lakers slow start. Ball movement, a key part of their success in consecutive victories over Phoenix and Utah, was lacking in the opening period Tuesday.

The Hornets made three of their first four shots, took an early 7-2 lead and never trailed for the rest of the first quarter. Meanwhile, the Lakers bogged down on offense and could generate little rhythm.

Bryant didnt take his first shot until 3:24 remained in the quarter. He made it, but by then the Lakers were down by seven points. The Hornets extended their lead to its biggest point, at 32-19, in the final minute when Stojakovic hit a 3-pointer and Melvin Ely made two free throws.

Jordan Farmar eased the Lakers pain a bit when he took an inbounds pass with one second remaining, hit a turnaround jumper and drew a foul. Farmar made the free throw to narrow the Hornets lead to 10.

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Momentary boost

The second unit did its job again. Jordan Farmar looks stellar and Vlad Radmanovic hit two 3-pointers to bring the Lakers within 36-32, but the Hornets responded with the next six points to rebuild a 10-point lead. Give these Hornets some credit. It’s not an ultra-talented group but they don’t get rattled, they move the ball well and they play solid defense, although the starters play much better defense than the second unit. The Hornets lead 44-35 with 6:51 remaining in the first half.

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Bynum’s turn

After an ineffective start by Chris Mihm, Andrew Bynum entered the game to a large ovation from the Staples Center crowd. Mihm’s contributions were limited to a nice put-back and an awful long pass, intended for Kobe Bryant, that was easily picked off. As for Kobe, he didn’t take his first shot until 3:24 remained in the first quarter. The Lakers are playing slightly better but still trail 22-17 with 2:59 remaining in the first quarter.

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Rough start

The Lakers’ heralded ball movement has crawled to a stop and the Lakers have missed eight of their first 12 shots from the field. When the offense is going through Mihm and Turiaf, that’s not a good sign. Meanwhile, the Hornets are controlling the pace and hitting open jumpers. The Hornets have made 7 of 11 shots and lead 18-8 midway through the first quarter.

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Mihm starts at center

Chris Mihm will start at center in place of Kwame Brown, who is on the inactive list tonight with a heel injury. It’s a big night for Mihm, who is finally healthy after his season-long ankle problems last year. Coach Phil Jackson said he was confident that Mihm could handle major minutes tonight.

“He had a couple starts in the preseason,” Jackson said. “He should be ready to play.”

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Not a good team?

Phil Jackson was asked before the game, in a general sense, if he was surprised the Lakers are this good.

“That’s not a term I would use,” Jackson said.

Good? He wouldn’t call his team good.

“If we were 30-5, I would use that term,” Jackson said.

Well, there’s a coach for you. Jackson would allow that he was pleased with his team’s development after the season-opening loss to Houston, and cited a team meeting that took place the following day.

“We had to talk about the ball stopping and not moving,” Jackson said.

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