- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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NEW ORLEANS -- Crisis averted.
This one was a wrap. Until it wasn't.
Win of the season?
You can say a lot against these Lakers, but they have certainly figured out some mental toughness, if nothing else.
Singling out one wouldn't give proper due to Metta World Peace sticking those second-half 3-pointers when the team was stagnant or Pau Gasol in street clothes keeping Howard mentally in the game during timeouts or Steve Nash's mere presence opening up space on the floor for Bryant to operate.
What a win.
Here's a look at what L.A. did to get back to 31-31
How it happened: The Lakers shot just 38.5 from the field for the game and 33.3 percent on 3-pointers (4-for-12) in the first half as the Hornets hit at a 56.8 percent clip overall en route to leading by as many as 25. L.A. trailed by 18 heading into the fourth before mounting a furious comeback. Bryant put them ahead with a pull-up jumper with 32.6 seconds left, and Howard followed that up with a block on 7-footer Robin Lopez on the other end before L.A. cushioned its lead at the end.
What it means: It could have been more of the same one step forward, two steps back basketball the Lakers have toyed with all season long. After that ever-so-brief sigh of relief L.A. had after beating the Atlanta Hawks at home in thrilling fashion, the Lakers came precariously close to going back to 30-32. But they somehow figured it out and got some help from Utah, which lost 104-101 to Cleveland, and Houston, which lost 112-108 in Dallas to boot. And so, the Laker playoff push continues.
Hits: After being limited to just seven points and three rebounds in the first half while playing only 11 minutes because of foul trouble, Howard was a beast in the second. He finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and the aforementioned four blocks.
Bryant had the first 42-plus point, 12-plus assist effort the NBA has seen in three seasons since LeBron James did it.
Misses: Exhibit A of why the Lakers should have been aware of what could be coming Wednesday night:
The last time the Lakers played the Hornets at home back in late January, L.A. saw its 18-point fourth-quarter lead cut all the way to one before holding on to win by five.
If that wasn't enough of a wake-up call, how about Exhibit B: The last time the Lakers played a true bottom-feeder on the road in the Charlotte Bobcats -- who had the worst record in the East just like the Hornets have the second-worst record in the West -- they trailed by as many as 20 before rallying to win.
When will they learn? Or maybe, more appropriately, will they ever learn?
Stat of the game: The Lakers outscored the Hornets 33-9 in the fourth quarter.
What's next: The Lakers host the Toronto Raptors (who followed up six wins out of seven games around the All-Star break by losing five straight) on Friday and then get the Chicago Bulls at home in a Sunday matinee.
2dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne