<
>
AT OKLAHOMA CITY OK
Los AngelesLakersLAL
24-23, 12-15 Away
90
Final
1234T
LAL2620232190
NO29292523106
106
NO/Oklahoma CityHornetsNO
24-22, 15-8 Home

Mason, Paul help Hornets leapfrog Lakers in West

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Desmond Mason wanted to pressure Kobe
Bryant on the defensive end. Bryant just wants his teammates to
take some pressure off him on the offensive end.

Mason scored 21 points and Chris Paul added 19 points and 13
assists Saturday night, leading the New Orleans Hornets over Los
Angeles 106-90 and past the Lakers in the Western Conference
standings.

"I just wanted to be aggressive and try to put some pressure on
him, make him foul," Mason said. "Try to just put pressure on
him, make him play defense on that end of the floor and try to wear
him down, try to run a little bit.

"I think that's what you need to do with a guy like that who
can play offense like that. You just have to wear him down a little
bit, and I think we did that."

Mason, guarded much of the game by Bryant, beat the Lakers star
twice on New Orleans' first three possessions and the Hornets never
trailed. They moved two games above .500 for the first time this
season and passed the Lakers for seventh place in the West.

"Coach called my play a couple times and the guards got me the
ball in some spots where I could work," Mason said. "I just
wanted to put the heat on him."

Added Hornets center P.J. Brown: "I think that's key when
you're going against an offensive juggernaut like Kobe Bryant. I
think those guys don't like to play 'D. You've got to put pressure
on them on the other end. I thought that's what he did early, and
it meant a lot.

"It got Kobe to concentrate a little more on the defensive end
than he wanted to. He got us off to a good start. It just seemed
like everything seemed to keep going after that."

Rasual Butler added 15 points, Brown scored 14 and Kirk Snyder
and David West had 11 apiece.

Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer, had 19 of his 35 points in the
first quarter. Devean George added a season-high 21 points,
including five 3-pointers, and Brian Cook scored 13.

The Lakers were without Lamar Odom and Chris Mihm, two of their
top four scorers.

"We have all the excuses in the world: We're young, a couple
guys down, etc., etc. We've just got to man up and be ready to
play," Bryant said.

After Bryant had pulled the Lakers within 68-62 in the third
quarter with a two-handed dunk that led to a three-point play, the
Hornets (24-22) took advantage of a flurry of fouls against Bryant
that left the Lakers (24-23) staggered.

Following Bryant's third foul, Mason hit one of two free throws
to start a string of nine straight points for New Orleans. Bryant
was then called for his fourth foul -- his second offensive foul and
third overall in a two-minute span -- and then a technical foul for
arguing the call, and Paul hit the resulting free throw. He hit
another after the Lakers were whistled for having six players on
the floor, then drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing.

Back-to-back baskets by Mason and Aaron Williams extended the
lead to 78-62.

The Lakers pulled back within 10 with a three-point play by
Kwame Brown and a 3-pointer by Bryant, but Paul extended the lead
to 83-69 with a dazzling basket to end the third quarter. He took
the ball on the right sideline, spun around one defender, dribbled
behind his back and into the lane, then scooped the ball into the
basket around two defenders.

Butler hit a 3-pointer to spark a 9-0 Hornets run to stretch the
lead to 90-71, then added another to restore the lead to 19 points
after the Lakers had pulled within 14.

He then had two follow dunks to end a nine-point Los Angeles run
that had cut the deficit to 97-87.

After facing double- and triple-teams much of the game, Bryant --
who averaged 43.4 points in January -- was asked if he needed to
learn to deal with the matchups better.

"Basically, to say yeah would be saying that I need to get 45
points to win a game," he responded. "Do you know what I'm
saying? Is that what we need to win ballgames? I think we need to
execute. We need to execute our offense. We're not doing a good job
of that. Once we do that, we'll be all right."

Improved execution, he said, would allow the Lakers to read the
defense better and not just get him the ball with 5 seconds on the
shot clock.

"We just have to do a better job of spacing the court, making
them play everybody as a threat," Bryant said. "Then it makes a
lot harder for them to run off and double team."

After letting an early 12-point lead dwindle to one, New Orleans
then charged back with 14 straight points to go up 56-41 on Mason's
first 3-pointer of the season.

"I was working on it for the last week," Mason said. "I
knocked my first one down today and then I airballed the next one.
That's OK. One for two is 50 percent. I'm good."

Game notes
The Hornets and 76ers agreed to extend until Monday the
deadline for completing the trade of Steven Hunter to New Orleans
for two second-round picks. Hornets GM Jeff Bower said Hunter's
physical exam results are being reviewed "very closely." ... The
Lakers are 1-4 on their current seven-game road trip. ... Bryant
scored all of Los Angeles' 15 points during one span in the first
quarter. ... Attendance was 19,344, a new record for a sporting
event at the Ford Center. ... Bryant said the third-quarter fouls
were "silly calls." He avoided a scoreless second quarter by
hitting a fallaway 3-pointer at the buzzer from the right wing to
bring the Lakers within 58-46.

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