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Bryant, Odom lead Lakers past reeling Hornets

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kwame Brown's sore hamstring held up well
enough to allow the Los Angeles Lakers to put some distance between
themselves and one of their major threats to a playoff berth.

Brown finished with 17 points, helping the Lakers beat the New
Orleans Hornets 105-94 Sunday night for their fourth straight
victory. The fifth-year center, who came to Los Angeles last August
in a trade from Washington, pulled his hamstring in Friday's
victory over Milwaukee. But Alex McKechnie, the team's athletic
performance coordinator, gave him enough treatment to make it
tolerable.

"I was a little nervous when I started running a little bit at
the beginning of warmups and before we started playing," Brown
said. "But Alex is the man. We did a lot of work before the game,
I got up a real good sweat and it felt pretty good. It was just one
of those nights where I got it close to the paint and just went up
strong."

Brown was a season-best 7-for-7 from the field, Kobe Bryant
scored 30 points and Lamar Odom added 23 points as Los Angeles
equaled its longest winning streak of the season. The Lakers are
seventh in the Western Conference playoff race, two games ahead of
Sacramento and four ahead of the ninth-place Hornets, whose 11th
defeat in 12 games clinched a playoff berth for the Pacific
Division-leading Phoenix Suns.

"Now the pressure is all on us because we didn't take care of
our business tonight," said Hornets center P.J. Brown, who had 13
points and seven rebounds before fouling out with 4:48 to play.

"The Lakers are a couple of steps ahead of us. So I thought if
we could get this one, it would give us a chance to breath a little
bit and have this one in our pocket so that when we come back here
in a couple of weeks, the pressure would be all on them to win."

David West had 23 points and seven rebounds for the Hornets, who
had allowed only one player to score at least 30 points in their
previous 11 games. That player was Bryant, who had 40 in a 113-107
win on March 8 at New Orleans -- the first major sporting event in
that city since the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

"We knew we weren't going to be able to keep Kobe under 30, but
you want to make him work for it. And I think we did a pretty good
job of that," coach Byron Scott said.

"They had two guys who had really good games, Kwame Brown and
Lamar Odom. When they have that type of production, they are going
to be hard to beat. Odom is three or four inches taller than the
guys we had guarding him tonight, and he took advantage of it."

The Hornets shot 44.7 percent from the field. The last time they
played at Staples Center, in an 89-67 loss to the Clippers on March
1, the Hornets scored 16 points in the second half -- the fewest by
any team during the shot-clock era. They also went a
franchise-worst 12 minutes and 41 seconds between field goals
during a 25-0 run by the Clippers.

Bryant drove the left baseline for a layup with 11 minutes
remaining to give the Lakers an 87-77 lead, the first double-digit
margin for either team. They built a 95-80 cushion with a 9-0 spurt
triggered by Devean George's first basket of the game, an 18-footer
from the top of the key with 8:56 remaining.

The Hornets held the Lakers without a field goal over the final
6:22 and got as close as 91-89 on a pair of free throws by rookie
Chris Paul, capping a 19-4 run.

Both teams shot over 55 percent in the first half. Brown was
6-for-6 in the half and Lamar Odom drained a buzzer-beating
3-pointer from in front of the Lakers' bench to give them a 62-60
lead at intermission.

"They basically ran the ball down our throats in the first
half, so we had to get adjusted to the tempo," Bryant said. "In
the second half, we were able to get a bead on them a little bit
better."

The Lakers are 5-3 since center Chris Mihm went out of the
lineup with sprained right ankle, and 7-7 altogether this season.
He missed six games last month because of a sprained right
shoulder. Lakers first-round draft pick Andrew Bynum was scratched,
after spraining his right foot and ankle playing 2-on-2 following
Saturday's practice.

Game notes
The Lakers had only three turnovers over in the first 16
1-2 minutes -- all by Bryant, who has played only three games this
season without committing one. The Lakers won all three times.
Bryant has had a season-high seven turnovers on five occasions, and
the Lakers are 1-4 in those games. ... Scott, who played 11 seasons
with the Lakers and won three championship rings, is 4-7 against
them as a coach. ... Kwame Brown shot 6-for-6 against Dallas and
Memphis earlier this season.