Half: Hornets 49, Lakers 45

NEW ORLEANS — Kobe Bryant was scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting in the first half of Game 4 tonight against the New Orleans Hornets. Chris Paul wasn’t a whole lot better for the Hornets, scoring only four points on 1-for-3 shooting. Paul scored his first points by driving past Bryant late in the half and then earned a technical foul for yapping about it. Until then, he had been CP0 instead of CP3. Bryant couldn’t guard Trevor Ariza in the opening half and swapped defensive assignments with Ron Artest, who had been checking Marco (2-for-6) Belinelli. Ariza had 16 points, the same as Artest.

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Artest goes loco

NEW ORLEANS — Ron Artest wore a black T-shirt with the words “Go Loco” printed on it before today’s practice in preparation of Game 4 of the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against the Hornets on Sunday night at the New Orleans Arena. He insisted it was not the team’s slogan for the 2011 playoffs, although it might be too late for that after he talked about the team going loco during its victory in Game 3 on Friday. Stay tuned.

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Lakers 100, Hornets 86

NEW ORLEANS — Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, but said he could play better after the Lakers took a 2-1 series lead tonight over the New Orleans Hornets. Pau Gasol added 17 points and 10 rebounds, bouncing back from a cold that knocked him off his game in the first two games of the series. Andrew Bynum scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Chris Paul led the Hornets with 22 points, including 18 in the first half.

“I just went out there and played my game,” Bryant said. “I’m a scorer first. Pau helped open things up. It’s funny because he missed a lot of shots close to the rim and then he knocked down a 3-point shot. That seemed to get him going. But it makes a big difference for us when he’s able to score in the paint.”

Lakers coach Phil Jackson had this to say about Gasol: “He’s just too good a basketball player. He can shoot the basketball. He can handle the ball. He can do a lot of things. It’s just a matter of him finding a comfort zone out there. I didn’t expect him to find it out on the 3-point line, but we’re not surprised when he makes those shots.”

Game 4 is Sunday night in New Orleans.

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Half: Lakers 51, Hornets 42

NEW ORLEANS — The Lakers finally began to expose the New Orleans Hornets as a one-man team in the first half of Game 3 of their first-round playoff series tonight. Chris Paul had a team-leading 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, but the Lakers could live with the fact that he had only three assists and three rebounds. The Lakers dominated the paint in the first half, scoring 34 points from point-blank range. Kobe Bryant had 15 points, Andrew Bynum scored 14 and grabbed nine rebounds. Pau Gasol had only four points and four rebounds, but he didn’t seem to be pressing as much as he was in the first two games.

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Lakers 87, Hornets 78

Kobe Bryant scored 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting and Pau Gasol had eight points on 2-for-10 shooting in Game 2 of the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets tonight at Staples Center. Normally, that would mean bad news for the Lakers, but they found a way to win a physical and methodical contest. Actually, they won with defense again, a throwback to those heady days when they won 17 of 18 after the All-Star break back in February. The Lakers gave up 109 points to the Hornets during their loss in Game 1 on Sunday. In Game 2, they gave up only 78 points and limited the Hornets to 39.1 percent shooting (27 of 69). Trevor Ariza had 22 points for the Hornets.

“We like it to be tough,” Andrew Bynum said of the series after scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. “Even though they won the first game, we like o have a good first round opponent, kind of like (Oklahoma City) last year. They (the Hornets) made us play with a sense of urgency. So, losing this first game, that really put it right back on us.”

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Half: Lakers 47, Hornets 41

The Lakers played with the fire and emotion tonight in Game 2 that was missing in their loss Sunday to the New Orleans Hornets in Game 1. They were only halfway to tying the best-of-7 series at a victory apiece, however. There were good signs all around Staples Center for the Lakers. First and foremost, they lead by halftime despite the face (or perhaps because) Kobe Bryant scored only three points. The Lakers divided up the workload far better than on Sunday. Andrew Bynum scored 12 points, Lamar Odom had eight, Ron Artest scored seven and Pau Gasol had six. Carl Landry had 12 for the Hornets.

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Barkley: No three-peat

Here’s what Charles Barkley had to say on TNT after the Lakers’ loss to the Hornets in Game 1 on Sunday: “I’ve already told you I don’t think the Lakers are going to win the championship. This is not the same Lakers team. They’ve gotten old in a hurry. And that little nonchalant thing they do when they can turn it on. The little yellow light is on, and you can’t turn it off.”

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Blake’s back

Steve Blake was cleared to resume practicing with the Lakers today after a doctor determined he was no longer contagious after he bout with chicken pox. Blake made it through the film session and on-court workout, but was a little fatigued and had to sit out now and then. “I felt a lot better than I thought I would after lying in the bed for seven days,” he said. “I got a little tired … but for the most part I felt pretty good.” He said he has no idea how he got it. “it’s not like I went up to someone and shook hands with someone who had spots all over him,” he said. He also said he hoped to play in Game 2 on Wednesday.

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Game 1: What happened?

The Lakers lost Game 1 because they didn’t play with the necessary energy to start the game and they never caught up with the New Orleans Hornets’ emotion and drive. Everything else stemmed from their lack of life in the opening minutes.

Their defense was porous, particularly against Chris Paul (34 points, seven rebounds, 14 assists). Kobe Bryant said they don’t need to make dramatic adjustments for Game 2 on Wednesday, they just need to do what they were supposed to do in Game 1.

They need more from Pau Gasol, who scored only eight points on 2-for-9 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. He averaged 22.3 points on 70.5 percent shooting and 12.8 rebounds in four games against the Hornets during the regular season.

They also didn’t get enough from their other big guy, Andrew Bynum, who had 13 points and nine rebounds but played only 25 minutes, 39 seconds because of foul trouble. He averaged 15 points and 5.8 rebounds in the regular season against the Hornets.

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Hornets 109, Lakers 100

The Lakers were no-shows in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets today at Staples Center. They were outplayed from the opening tip and were booed as they left the court. Kobe Bryant scored 34 points, Ron Artest scored 16 and Pau Gasol had only eight on 2-for-9 shooting. Chris Paul had 33 points, seven rebounds and 14 assists.

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