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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lakers down Hornets in possible playoff preview


Kobe Bryant scored 30 points and Pau Gasol added 23 points with 16 rebounds as the Los Angeles Lakers beat New Orleans 102-84 in a possible NBA playoff preview.

The two-time defending champion Lakers have now won 15 of their 16 games since the All-Star break and are edging closer to the top of the overall NBA standings.

The Lakers improved to 53-20 and pulled within a half-game of Chicago (53-19) for second-best record in the league.

They moved within four games of NBA-leading San Antonio, their Western Conference rivals who lost Sunday at Memphis.

Both teams have nine games remaining, including a meeting in Los Angeles on April 12.

Andrew Bynum added 13 points for the Lakers, who won their seventh straight game. Los Angeles seized an 18-point lead in the first half, and held on as the Hornets tried to mount a rally in the final quarter.

Carl Landry had a season-high 24 points and 10 rebounds, and Chris Paul had 10 points and nine assists for the Hornets, who were playing their second game since losing their top scorer David West to a knee injury for the rest of the season.

Hornets coach Monty Williams said his team will have to learn to win tough games without West if they are to stay in the playoff chase.

They are seventh in the Western Conference, but just one game ahead of Memphis who currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot.

"We just have to figure out ways to win games in tough circumstances," Williams said. "It's brought us closer together as a team, but it's tough. It's going to be a grind."


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