Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS It has finally come to this for the Hornets.

Moral victories aren't necessarily celebrated, but they're at the very least acknowledged.

So losing 107-101 to the Lakers on Wednesday night will go down as a victory in spite of the loss.

The kids played hard.

They fought valiantly.

Jarrett Jack said, 'I can't really complain. My guys gave it everything they had.'

Monty Williams said, 'I could say a lot right now but I'm really proud of the way our guys responded tonight. I told them if they continue to play that way, we're going to win more games.'

And you know what, you can't blame them.

Yes, the Hornets let a 17-point lead slip away with a horrid third quarter and yes, they failed to execute in some overly-critical situations down the stretch.

But it's the way these Hornets continue to fight and claw and stick around in games they shouldn't be in that should impress you.

Two nights after an embarrassing home-court loss to league-worst Charlotte, the Hornets redeemed themselves against the Western Conference's third-best team.

Without Eric Gordon and without Carl Landry and without Emeka Okafor and even without Jason Smith, the Hornets battled Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and Derek Fisher nearly to a draw.

Williams, and most people for that matter, aren't going to blow smoke at people and tell them it's fun to watch loss after loss after loss.

Once again, the Hornets can chalk up a game as another learning experience for a young team.

While those get old, the long-term outlook is necessary here.

The Lakers have time and again been in situations like this down a lot and seemingly out of a game and yet they stay relaxed and don't try to cut into the lead all at once.

It's something the Hornets can and eventually will learn, that playing relaxed and within themselves is beneficial, regardless of how large the lead or how big the hole.

'I told the guys, you play with that kind of effort and passion and defend the way we did early in the game, you give yourself a chance,' Williams said. 'That's all you can ask for. '

Ultimately, though, it's not about moral victories. It's not about close calls.

It's about wins and competing for playoff spots and, hopefully, championships.

The Hornets couldn't be further way from two of those three than they seem to be now.

And they know it.

'Let's be honest we don't want to compete just to go out there and compete,' guard Greivis Vasquez said. 'We want to compete and win. That's why we all get paid. It's just tough.'

It is tough and no moral victories can change that.

Alas, with 23 games left, that's all these Hornets can hang their hats on.

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