Paul's double-double helps Hornets prevail

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The Los Angeles Lakers lost a starting center who accounts for nearly 20 points a game, then lost their edge despite Kobe Bryant's best efforts.

Chris Paul had 27 points and 17 assists to help the New Orleans Hornets beat the Lakers 108-98 Friday night in what could prove to be a costly game for both teams.

Paul hobbled to the finish after hurting his left ankle on a failed drive to the hoop with 2:31 to go. Lakers center Pau Gasol and David West, however, did not make it to end of the game.

Gasol sprained his left ankle when he stepped on Vladimir Radmanovic's foot in the first quarter and needed help getting to the locker room. He was on crutches after the game, saying he didn't want to put any weight on it in hopes of keeping the swelling down.

"It swelled up pretty good. We'll know more tomorrow," Gasol said. "We're going to make sure there's no damage to the ligaments, at least not too bad. I hate sitting out ... I want to be back as soon as I can."

West had 12 points and 14 rebounds for New Orleans, but limped off the floor with under seven minutes remaining, twisting his right ankle. He was playing through a left ankle sprain that kept him out for three games last week.

Hornets coach Byron Scott said he was unsure of West's condition. However, Scott said Gasol's departure changed the game.

"It changed big time because of the fact that now we don't have to think about him on that post or double-team him," Scott said. "It gave Tyson [Chandler] more of a free rein to guard different guys."

Bryant had 36 points and nine assists for Los Angeles, which lost for only the third time in 17 games. He walked dejectedly to the locker room with 15 seconds left after fouling out. Lamar Odom had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who won by 29 points when they visited New Orleans on Jan. 9. Los Angeles had not yet acquired Gasol back then, but did have a healthy Andrew Bynum. Without either this time, they shot only 38 percent.

Bryant said Gasol's departure changed the Lakers' approach, but 9-for-30 3-point shooting is what really did them in.

"We knock a couple of those shots down and now their defense has some decisions to make," Bryant said. "We missed a lot of shots. We had some open opportunities. We just didn't make them, but we have great shooters on this team and I have no doubt that we'll bounce back."

They need to. They travel to Houston, which is riding a 21-game winning streak, on Sunday.

Chandler had 14 points and 20 rebounds in the latest impressive triumph for the Hornets, who beat San Antonio by 25 points on Wednesday. But the Hornets could struggle in Detroit on Sunday if both West and Paul either play hurt or sit out altogether.

Paul said his injury was minor and that he expected to play.

"We won two games, it's a big win for us, but now we have a tough one in Detroit so we've got to take it for what it is," Paul said. "When we win these games it's not like we won the NBA Finals. It's just another win and we've got to keep it going."

Peja Stojakovic missed all seven two-point field goals he attempted, but was 5-of-9 from 3-point range for 15 points, hitting two big shots in the fourth quarter to help New Orleans pull away.

The Hornets scored the first eight points of the third quarter and led 60-53 after Paul's fastbreak layup. Bryant kept it close a while longer by scoring the Lakers' next 13 points, hitting two 3s, making three free throws after being fouled on the perimeter and converting a three-point play on a driving dunk.

The spurt helped the Lakers tie it at 65. Unlike the last times these teams met, the Hornets remained on the offensive.

"It's kind of payback for us because they came on our home floor and embarrassed us the last game," Chandler said.

Paul hit an open 3 late in the third period, which ended right as Chandler finished a fastbreak with a thunderous dunk, giving New Orleans an 80-72 lead heading into the final period.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson rested Bryant for the first four minutes of the fourth quarter and the Hornets went up 94-82 when rookie Julian Wright hit a jumper, then jammed an alley-oop feed from Paul on a fast break.

Jackson called timeout, but continued to rest Bryant and the Lakers fell further behind when Stojakovic made a pair of 3-pointers, the second giving New Orleans a 100-85 lead with 5:35 to go.

The Lakers led by as much as seven in the first half and held the edge through most of the first 24 minutes, when Bryant score 14 points and Odom 12.

Game notes
The Lakers are 22-12 on the road this season ... Chandler and Ronny Turiaf each were assessed technical fouls for bumping each other after Chandler's dunk in the third quarter. ... Paul missed a free throw in the third quarter, ending his streak of consecutive foul shots made at 24. Paul ended up missing five free throws in the game. ... Attendance was 18,199, the Hornets sixth sellout in 10 homes games and the largest crowd of the season.