The Los Angeles Lakers’ sixth starting lineup in nine games clicked from the opening tip, and Jordan Hill was the biggest reason for the flow.
Hill had a career-high 21 points and 11 rebounds in his first start of the season, and Pau Gasol added 14 points and eight rebounds in the Lakers’ 116-95 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.
Nick Young scored 17 points for Los Angeles, which lost five of its last seven before trouncing the Pelicans, who beat them handily last week. The Lakers left New Orleans embarrassed by their effort, but they made up for it back home with likely their best all-around performance since a season-opening win over the Clippers.
”We’ve just got to do this every night, because we’re not good enough to take any plays off,” Hill said. ”We’ve got to have that energy every time we step on the floor. That’s what I try to bring whenever I’m there. I don’t care if I’m starting.”
With both members of the Lakers’ decorated backcourt sidelined, Hill shined in his chance to join the Lakers’ latest starting lineup. Steve Nash is out for at least two weeks with nerve problems in his back, while Kobe Bryant still hasn’t returned to practice after surgery on his torn Achilles’ tendon in April.
Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry scored 15 points apiece for the Lakers, who led by 20 in the first half before coasting to their 12th win in their past 13 regular-season meetings with New Orleans. Los Angeles’ current lineup isn’t festooned with stars, but coach Mike D’Antoni is hopeful his collection of role players will stay competitive in Kobe’s absence.
”This is a good group of guys, (and) I think today they realized what it’s going to take to win,” D’Antoni said. ”And they did it. I think Jordan Hill being in that first group helped everybody with his energy … and then everybody picked it up.”
After missing much of last season with hip woes, Hill seized his chance to contribute to the Lakers, surpassing his previous career high in points early in the third quarter. The fifth-year big man provided his usual energy and rebounding determination to Los Angeles, but supplemented it with an accurate shot and constant rolls to the basket, where his teammates repeatedly found him for scores.
”He’s a good guy to lean on if you want a jolt of energy,” D’Antoni said.
Los Angeles outrebounded New Orleans 53-31 and had 33 assists, including 10 from new starting point guard Steve Blake.
Eric Gordon scored 17 points for the Pelicans, who have lost on the first two stops of their three-game West Coast road trip. New Orleans’ struggles practically mirrored the Lakers’ poor effort in Louisiana last week, leaving coach Monty Williams frustrated.
”We just didn’t go out there and play as hard as we had been playing,” Williams said. ”We had the same game plan against that team last week and held them to 85 points, but we just didn’t execute tonight. When we got down, and as a young team, I think we let our offensive game affect our defense. It was just too easy for them.”
Tyreke Evans had 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting after nearly sitting out with an ankle injury for the Pelicans, who snapped an 11-game losing streak in this series Friday. Anthony Davis, who scored a career-high 32 points in that win, had just 15 points in the rematch, with nine in the fourth quarter.
”They just played harder than us,” Davis said. ”We were kind of slow and didn’t have a lot of energy out there. I got in foul trouble early, and it’s hard to play like that. I never got going.”
Two days after giving up 47 first-quarter points to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a blowout home loss, the Lakers fared much better early on against New Orleans. Los Angeles opened the second quarter with a 22-5 run to take a 20-point lead, pushing it to 28 in the second half.
Lou Amundson debuted for the Pelicans, scoring three points while playing in a No. 17 jersey that didn’t have his name on the back. New Orleans boosted its frontcourt depth by signing the UNLV product Tuesday along with Josh Childress, who didn’t play.
NOTES: Henry threw down an exhilarating one-handed dunk late in the third quarter right on top of New Orleans rookie 7-footer Jeff Withey. Henry and Withey were teammates with the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2009-10 season. ”That’s my guy, but he shouldn’t have been under there,” Henry said with a laugh. … Backup C Greg Stiemsma sprained his knee in the first half and didn’t return for the Pelicans. … Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler watched the game at courtside. Clippers coach Doc Rivers sat in the fifth row in a black cap watching his son, New Orleans G Austin Rivers, who scored seven points in 15 minutes.