Lamar Odom cruised into the lane on a fast break, put the ball behind his back and then bounced a finger roll off the back rim. Unfazed, he jumped to jam home the rebound.
The sequence sent Lakers teammates into giggling fits while New Orleans coach Monty Williams disgustedly called a timeout.
"It’s funny that a play like that happens in New Orleans," Odom said. "Basketball is almost like jazz, right? Because if you make one move, you can take it to another move, but you never know which way it’s going."
The looks of anger and frustration that characterized Los Angeles’ recent three-game skid were history. A commanding 103-88 victory over the Hornets brought back the fun of the game – perhaps more so for Odom than anyone, even though he found himself out of the starting lineup for the first time all season.
Coach Phil Jackson started Andrew Bynum in Odom’s place.
"Some people could have took that personally," Odom said. "It didn’t matter to me, honestly."
Odom responded to his season debut as a reserve by scoring a team-leading 24 points, the most by a Lakers player coming off the bench since Tierre Brown had 27 in February 2005.
Odom hit from a wide range of spots, even draining a casual, too-easy-looking 3-pointer as the horn sounded to end the third quarter.
Kobe Bryant scored 20 points, Bynum had 18 and Pau Gasol added 11 points and 12 rebounds as the Lakers snapped out a funk in which they had lost by 15 or more points in their previous three games.
"We played much better. We executed much better. Our defense did an excellent job," Bryant said. "Drew makes a big difference plugging up the middle, rebounding. He’s moving better. … He seems to be more stable, more active."
Odom had started all 31 of the Lakers’ previous games. Bynum, who had played a reserve role in his first seven games since returning from knee surgery, started for the first time this season.
"We had three loses, so we might as well do it now if we are going to do it," Jackson said.
The Lakers’ lineup shift produced a dominant performance in New Orleans, where the Hornets had been 13-3 coming in.
Chris Paul had 20 points and Marco Belinelli scored 15 for the Hornets, who lost their second straight by double digits after falling 113-98 at Minnesota two nights earlier.
"One day we’re playing well and everybody is getting it going and the next day we could be somebody’s little brother," Hornets forward Trevor Ariza said. "If we want to win and do something in this league, we can’t be like that. … We played really soft today. That’s the bottom line."
It didn’t help that David West twisted his left ankle late in the first half. He tried to play through it, but finished with only eight points in 28 minutes.
Los Angeles led by 20 late in the second quarter and stayed ahead by at least 20 for significant stretches of the second half. The Lakers shot 58.6 percent (41 of 70) for the game. Los Angeles also finished with a whopping 44-24 advantage in rebounds, and the Hornets’ seven rebounds in the first half tied a Lakers all-time opponent-low for a half.
"We were overwhelmed," Williams said. "They are a great team and hit a lot of tough shots."
Energized by a boisterous, sellout crowd, the Hornets started respectably. Paul had 11 of his points in the first quarter to keep the game close. Gasol’s 13-foot jumper gave the Lakers a 26-23 lead at the end of the period.
New Orleans started to unravel early in the second quarter with primarily reserves on the court.
Odom’s layup as he was fouled ignited an 11-0 spurt during which Matt Barnes and Derek Fisher hit-back-to-back 3s before Fisher added a 22-foot jumper to push the Lakers’ lead to 46-29.
Notes: Barnes was ejected by official Scott Foster for arguing a foul call with less than a minute to go in the game. … Announced attendance was 18,018, the Hornets’ largest home crowd of the season. … The crowd included Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, who is from New Orleans, and members of the Arkansas football team, who will play in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.