After a disappointing showing in the opening game of their first-round playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets, the Los Angeles Lakers have been anything but disappointing in the last two games.

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points and four other Lakers scored in double figures to claim a 100-86 win over the Hornets on April 22 at New Orleans Arena. The Lakers held a nine-point lead at halftime, and watched power forward Pau Gasol nail an unlikely three-pointer halting a brief Hornets’ run early in the fourth quarter. The Lakers now lead the series 2-1.

The tide has steadily shifted back in the Lakers’ direction with the reemergence of Gasol, an element for which fans and the coaching staff have been awaiting. Gasol had struggled in the first two games of the series, averaging eight points and 5.5 rebounds. He bounced back in game three, and his 17 points and 10 rebounds may be just what he needed to get into this series.

“He is just too good a basketball player,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson told reporters following the game. “He can shoot, he can handle the ball, he can do a lot of things. It’s just a matter of him finding a comfort zone out there. I didn’t expect him to find it out on the three-point line, but we are not surprised when he makes those shots.”

Chris Paul led New Orleans with 22 points and eight assists, but Los Angeles appears to have gotten a handle on the point guard since he exploded for 33 points, seven rebounds and 14 assists in the series opener.

The Hornets will try to even the series at home in game four on April 24.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO