Lakers 103, Hornets 88

NEW ORLEANS — The Lakers ended their three-game losing streak with a strong performance while whipping the New Orleans Hornets in every facet of the game. Andrew Bynum scored a season-best 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting with six rebounds and one blocked shot in 30 minutes, 9 seconds in his first start since returning to the active roster after having offseason knee surgery. Lamar Odom shifted to the bench after starting the season’s first 31 games and scored 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Kobe Bryant had 20 points and Pau Gasol added 11 points and 12 rebounds. Chris Paul had 20 points for New Orleans.

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Half: Lakers 59, Hornets 41

NEW ORLEANS — Andrew Bynum got his first start tonight, one day after Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, “Absolutely not,” when asked if the 7-foot center was ready to join the starting lineup. Bynum sat out the season’s first 24 games after undergoing right knee surgery July 28. He made an immediate impact against the New Orleans Hornets, scoring eight points on 4-for-6 shooting and taking three rebounds in 14 minutes, 17 seconds in the first half. Lamar Odom moved to a backup role and scored 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting. Kobe Bryant also scored 11 points as the Lakers led by as many as 20 points.

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Bynum’s best game yet?

SAN ANTONIO — Sure, the Lakers’ loss to the San Antonio Spurs extended their losing streak to three games, but there was something to cheer them at game’s end. Andrew Bynum scored 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and added one assist and one blocked shot in a season-high 21 minutes, 52 seconds. He also missed six of eight free throws, which prompted to say he would shoot up to 200 before the Lakers’ game Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets.

Here’s more from him:

“I’ve been working a lot with (assistant coach) Chuck (Person) and my touch is coming back around the rim. I’m doing the best I can with the ball when I’m in the game. I’ve just got to be a little more assertive, and really, really get that trust from my teammates again. I think that’s something I need to do, just be a little more demonstrative and ask for the ball and be a little bit more annoying. Obviously, if I knock my free throws down I stay in the game and get more touches.”

Bynum sat out the first 24 games of the season after having knee surgery July 28. He played in his seventh game.

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Spurs 97, Lakers 82

SAN ANTONIO — The Lakers stuck around for a while, then couldn’t keep up with the San Antonio Spurs tonight for their third consecutive loss. Lots and lots of their shortcomings were exposed in their first game this season with the league-leading Spurs (27-4). The Lakers (21-10) struggled to contain their emotions. Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher got technical fouls. Bryant scored 21 points on 8-for-27 shooting. Pau Gasol scored nine points in the first half, but went scoreless in the second. Andrew Bynum had 10 points and seven rebounds, but missed six of eight free throws. Tony Parker had 23 for the Spurs.

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Half: Lakers 44, Spurs 42

SAN ANTONIO — The Lakers were halfway to their best victory of the season, with a solid first half tonight against the San Antonio Spurs. Kobe Bryant was clearly playing frustrated, but he was playing with emotion. He scored eight points on 4-for-14 shooting in the first half. He made four of his first five shots, then clanked nine in a row. Pau Gasol was superb in the opening half, with nine points, six rebounds and four assists. Tony Parker scored 14 points on 6-for-12 shooting for the Spurs. Tim Duncan was scoreless.

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Kobe sounds off

SAN ANTONIO — Here’s what Kobe Bryant told reporters at the shootaround this morning when asked about the Lakers’ lackluster play going into tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs: “We haven’t really been pointing at anything, that’s been one of the problems. We don’t really get too excited about anything anymore. I’m excited about this game. I’m excited about the challenge of it and hopefully the rest of the guys are too.” Bryant has been rather talkative when he hasn’t been avoiding reporters. He didn’t talk after Monday’s practice, but did after the Christmas debacle after avoiding the media for three days after he was ejected from the Lakers’ loss to the Bucks on Dec. 21.

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Ebanks sent to D-League

The Lakers assigned Devin Ebanks to the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League in an attempt to get him some more minutes than he was getting with the big club. Ebanks, a rookie forward from West Virginia, averaged 2.9 points and 1.5 rebounds in 6.4 minutes with the Lakers.

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Will Kobe kick butts?

The Lakers didn’t practice today, but they are scheduled to return to the court Monday before hitting the road to face the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday and the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. Kobe Bryant vowed to kick some rear ends in practice in an attempt to get everyone out of their recent funk. He railed profanely about their lack of mental and physical preparedness during Saturday’s loss to the Miami Heat.

This could be the best quote from his postgame rant:

“These games mean more to our opponents than they do to us. We need to get that straight. We need to play with a little more focus and put more importance on these games. I don’t like it. We know what we’re capable of doing. OK, well do it. We need to get going here.”

But this one was pretty good too:

“The game has to be the most important thing. You have to focus on it. You have to play every game like it’s your last. You have to be attentive to what’s going on. This is serious stuff. You don’t just have two rings and say, ‘OK, we’re satisfied with what we’ve got.’ I’m not rolling with that. I’m not going to let that slide. We need to get it in gear. It’s your job. Show up and work. You’ve got to show up and get to work.”

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Heat 96, Lakers 80

The Lakers tuned up for what looms as a serious beatdown Tuesday against the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs with a Christmas Clunker today. They were no match today for the Miami Heat, who actually played as if something was on the line at Staples Center. LeBron James had a triple-double for Miami with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Kobe Bryant scored 17 points on 6-for-16 shooting and Pau Gasol had 17 points on 8-for-17 shooting. It was a pretty meager showing for the two-time defending champion Lakers, who looked as if they wanted to be elsewhere.

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Half: Heat 47, Lakers 38

Think the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs are sitting at home trembling in fear after watching the first half of this mess? The Spurs play host to the Lakers on Tuesday. The Heat won the 3-on-3 game handily, with Chris Bosh scoring 18 points, LeBron James scoring 11 and Dwyane Wade getting 10. The Lakers’ big three are stinking up the joint so far. Kobe Bryant had eight points on 3-for-10 shooting, plus a technical foul. Lamar Odom had eight points. Pau Gasol had 11 on 3-for-11 shooting. Let’s see if Bryant’s block of Wade’s last-second try does anything to get the Lakers going in the second half. They started fine, then settled into an ineffective funk that produced their first-half deficit.

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