LOS ANGELES -- Until the Los Angeles Lakers finally leave home or reach the tougher parts of their schedule, they will happily keep banking victories in the easier stretches.
Ron Artest scored 16 points as the Lakers remained undefeated in six games since the return of Pau Gasol, who had 14 points in Los Angeles' balanced offense. Los Angeles has beaten the NBA's two worst road teams in three days, giving them a minor workout until stiffer challenges -- Miami and Phoenix -- arrive this weekend.
"We don't draw up the schedule," said Lamar Odom, who had eight points and eight rebounds. "When you're playing against teams you feel might be a lesser opponent, we just want to concentrate on doing things just like we do them in practice. We want to play the same way against everybody, and for the last couple of games we've been able to do that."
The Lakers moved in front of the Suns atop the Western Conference and the overall NBA standings by taking another big first-half lead and coasting to their league-best 11th home victory. Seven players scored at least seven points while Los Angeles beat New Orleans at Staples Center for the second time in 24 days.
While New Orleans is struggling on the road, the Lakers don't even know what kind of road team they are. Thanks to a curious early season schedule, the defending champions have played 13 of their first 17 games at home, and they've still got four games left on this six-game homestand.
"We're playing pretty good basketball, but you really can't measure it," coach Phil Jackson said. "I think we'll get a measure of this team, where we are at this point in the season, with Miami and Phoenix."
Former UCLA star Darren Collison scored 20 points for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight road game. New Orleans' 1-9 road record is only ahead of the 0-11 New Jersey Nets, and the Hornets are winless on the road since beating the Clippers at Staples Center on Nov. 9.
Emeka Okafor added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who played again without All-Star point guard Chris Paul and forward Peja Stojakovic. Paul has a seriously sprained left ankle, while Stojakovic missed his second straight game to deal with a family member's illness.
"In these last couple of games, we just don't have a clear definition in terms of what guys are supposed to do," said former All-Star David West, who had just eight points on nine shots -- five fewer shots than Collision, a rookie. "There are too many guys trying to score, and that's us being sporadic. We can't decide where we're going to go with the basketball."
The Lakers overpowered New Orleans last month with solid bench play and Bryant's low-post scoring, which more than made up for the absences of the injured Bynum and Gasol in a 104-88 win. Los Angeles is nearly at full strength now, and its bulky front line was too much for the depleted Hornets.
The Lakers extended the NBA's longest current winning streak with yet another strong second quarter. Los Angeles made a 21-4 run that included 10 straight points during the period, rolling to a 23-point lead.
"I thought we battled in the third and fourth quarter, and competed to close it up and give ourselves a chance," New Orleans coach Jeff Bower said. "We just had dug ourselves such a deep hole in the second quarter. That was very difficult."
New Orleans might have improved its defense after Sunday's embarrassing 16-point loss at Sacramento, but the Lakers' outstanding ball movement still generated plenty of open shots. Four Lakers scored in double figures in the first half, with Derek Fisher getting six assists.
Los Angeles again concentrated on low-post play against the undersized Hornets, with Bynum often scoring easily against Okafor in a 9-for-10 shooting performance. The Lakers had made more than 60 percent of their shots late in the third quarter.
"We did what we had to do," Bryant said. "In the second quarter, we held them down. We're a better defensive team now, just from experience and playing together."
Bryant and New Orleans' Devin Brown exchanged looks and words after a hard foul by Brown in the third quarter. ... The teams don't meet again until March 29, when the Lakers make their only visit to New Orleans. ... Courtside seats were filled by actors Jack Black and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, and Lew Wolff, the Los Angeles real estate mogul who owns part of the Oakland Athletics.
- Ron Garretson
- Joe Forte
- Eric Lewis