Despite missing starting forward Trevor Ariza, starting center Emeka Okafor, and sixth man forward/center Jason Smith, the Hornets tied the Lakers late in the fourth quarter. However, L.A. played like a championship team in the final minutes to escape New Orleans with a 101-95  victory. Here is more from Hornet beat writer Jimmy Smith of the Times Picayune.

With three players out, Hornets reserves had to respond in a big way in order to keep this from what could have easily been a Lakers’ blowout.

Aaron Gray, in his first start as a Hornet, scored 10 points and had 10 rebounds, the fourth double-double of his career. David Andersen came off the bench to score 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Thornton had 14 points.

Gray and Andersen were pressed into action because of the absence of Emeka Okafor (oblique strain), Trevor Ariza (ankle sprain) and reserve Jason Smith (flu-like symptoms).

“Our bench came in and played well,” Thornton said. “(Andersen and Gray), those guys stepped up in the absences of Emeka and Trevor and Jason. They stepped up.”

As inspiring as the effort might have been, the fact is the Hornets have lost four of their last five games after winning ten straight. It would be naive to not point to the injury bug as the main cause of the struggles. While Gray, Smith, and Anderson have filled in admirably at times, the Hornets have been giving up triple digits in three of their last four contests. At the end of their ten game win streak, the Hornets had the number one ranked defense in the NBA. They still sit at a solid second, but will continue to slip in that category while Ariza and Okafor nurse their injuries. Both players are defensive anchors for one of the NBA's best defensive teams. Having each man out at the same time has been, and will continue to be, a challenge for the New Orleans Hornets.