NEW ORLEANS — For nearly the final 16 minutes of New Orleans’ game against the Lakers, the Hornets held a second-half lead.
And then Steve Blake hit an acrobatic fade-away bank shot. And then Andrew Bynum blocked the Hornets’ Chris Kaman. And then Metta World Peace drilled a 3-pointer from dead center.
And much like the rest of the season, the Hornets failed to hold onto a second-half lead, falling to the Lakers 93-91.
It was New Orleans’ third close loss to Los Angeles this season, but coach Monty Williams likely won’t point out the moral victory after Monday night’s game.
Still with a chance to extend the game, New Orleans inexplicably let time run off the clock – first, in trying to foul the Lakers with less than 18 seconds to play and then running nearly 6 seconds off the clock with 8 seconds remaining.
“I thought we took some tough jump shots instead of going to the basket,” Williams said. “The one time we did get to the basket, we got a layup and Chris got it blocked. If they miss those 3’s, nobody is talking about management.”
New Orleans (15-42) did everything it could to win, including watching as Greivis Vasquez went 5 of 6 from 3-point range, finishing with 18 points and 10 assists, while Marco Belinelli had 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting.
The Hornets forced 13 Lakers turnovers, scoring 12 points off of them. But L.A. took 16 more free throws than New Orleans, finishing 20 of 26 from the stripe in one of the major disparities in the game.
“We had a lead and we let the lead go,” forward Jason Smith said. “It’s a disappointing loss. We had a lot of guys play well but didn’t come out with the win tonight.”
The Lakers (36-22) won despite playing without Kobe Bryant, who missed with a shin injury. Instead, the Lakers relied on old stalwarts Pau Gasol, who had 25 on 10 of 21 shooting, and Andrew Bynum, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Additionally, they got 17 points from Ramon Sessions.
Williams said the game came down to poor choices for the Hornets.
“When you’re playing against a team at home, casting up jump shots just ignites fast-break opportunities,” Williams said. “When you go to the basket, you can flatten out the defense. When you get a foul, you can set your defense. I thought we settled a bit for timeouts.”
New Orleans previously lost to L.A. by six points in overtime at home and three points on the road.
This time it looked different.
After a 52-52 tie in the middle of the third quarter, the Hornets took over, eventually pushing their lead to 69-60.
The game turned in the fourth quarter on Blake’s shot, which answered a Belinelli 3-pointer.
The Lakers closed on a 20-10 run to pick up the win.
Ariza doesn’t play
Forward Trevor Ariza didn’t play Monday night, though nothing is physically wrong with the veteran.
Williams said he’s trying to work other players to see if they’re NBA material.
“We’re trying to play the young guys down the stretch, trying to develop those guys’ games and put them in different situations,” Williams said. “Trying to see if Lance (Thomas) can play the three. If he’s going to have a life in the NBA, he’s going to have to play a number of positions. … And just trying to get some more time for Al-Farouq (Aminu) and Xavier (Henry).”
Ariza has now sat out the past three quarters.