Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 1/30/13
LOS ANGELES -- The Lakers won their third in a row, beating the New Orleans Hornets, 111-106. There's no arguing that this a much better Laker team than it was just six days ago, with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash switching roles and Dwight Howard playing with a renewed enthusiasm. However, it also can't be argued that this team still has quite a ways to go in order to turn their season around. Yes, the Hornets are a better team (9-7) since Eric Gordon returned from multiple knee injuries on December 29, and yes, they beat the Grizzlies in Memphis a few days ago. But they're still a miserable 15-30 and tied with the Phoenix Suns at the bottom of the Western Conference. They'll be the Pelicans before they see the playoffs again, but the Lakers couldn't put them away. Even fighting for their playoff lives, the Lakers just can't stand prosperity. It looked like they were going to run the Hornets right back to New Orleans as they shared the basketball beautifully and ended up with a season-high 34 assists leading to 39 makes. They built an 18-point lead98-80--in the fourth quarter, but proceeded to lose their concentration and let the Hornets right back in the game. Behind the shooting of Ryan Anderson, who hit two three-pointers and scored 11 points, N.O. went on a dazzling 16-2 run in 2 12 minutes to cut the lead to one. But Earl Clark scored inside and Steve Nash buried a three-pointer with just over a minute left to play to put away the game. Head coach Mike D'Antoni was happy with the win, but not happy with his team's performance. "We shut it down too early," he said. "Actually, I thought we shut it down in the second half. You can't do that with a team that shoots threes like they do. We were scoring a lot and we get the tendency to think we're just going to outscore them the rest of the way. We almost paid for that." But they didn't, thanks to a great game by Howard, who had 24 points, 5 steals, 4 blocks and 4 rebounds, and the remarkable Clark, who at times was the 13th man on a 12-man roster. He finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists., including the layup that turned the momentum back to the Lakers after they'd blown the big lead. "It's great to get a win, no matter how you get it," Clark said. "We did let up on defense and turned the ball over, but we stayed with it and came away with the win." Bryant's emergence as the Lakers' primary distributor continued Tuesday with 11 more assists, giving him 39 in three games, the most he's ever had in three straight games. "Well (the facilitator role), it's working pretty well," Bryant said with a laugh. "I just get my guys lined up in the right places and get them the ball. "(Having two players) who can move the ball is great, because it always keeps the other team a few steps behind, which is really helpful. It's good for us emotionally because it's working, and they don't have any idea where the ball is coming from or where it's going.
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