(Sports Network) - Despite losing star forward David West for the rest of the season with a torn left ACL, the New Orleans Hornets will continue their push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference when they visit the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Chris Paul poured in 22 points on Friday, including several key buckets at the end of the game, as the Hornets overcame losing West for at least one night when they disposed of the Phoenix Suns, 106-100. New Orleans had received the devastating news on West, who suffered the injury in Thursday's 121-117 overtime win at Utah, earlier on Friday.
"You just can't say enough about guys pulling together in adversity," New Orleans head coach Monty Williams said. "I'd love to tell you it was about tricky plays and we had some schemes go well for us tonight."
The Hornets kept their playoff hopes in good standing as they remain in seventh place in the Western Conference -- a half-game behind Portland and two games ahead of Memphis.
The Lakers, meanwhile, continue to excel since the All-Star break and are coming off a 112-104 win Friday over their co-tenants at Staples Center, the LA Clippers. Kobe Bryant poured in 37 points and dished out six assists in that one.
Pau Gasol added 26 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who have won six in a row and sit five games behind the Spurs for the top spot in the Western Conference. The team is a stellar 14-1 since the All-Star break.
Ron Artest donated 15 points and five boards for the Pacific Division champion Lakers, who are 5-0 on a seven-game homestand and have won eight straight overall as the host. Andrew Bynum returned from a two-game suspension to record 11 points and 12 rebounds.
"No, it's just another win for us as a group and we're trying to continue to get better," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. "We haven't played as well as we'd like to these last few games but the Clippers team has played us tough all year; every game we've played. Whenever you can win a season series against a team in the NBA it's a good thing."
LA, which will be attempting to sweep the four-game season series with New Orleans tonight, hasn't won nine straight at Staples Center since an 11-game spurt from Nov. 17-Dec. 22, 2009.
If the season ended today, these two teams would meet in the Western quarterfinals.
For more information on tonight's game, be sure to read Silver Screen and Roll.