Blog Entry

Series Reset: A must-win for the Lakers?

Posted on: April 20, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 5:37 pm
We reset the Hornets-Lakers series with Game 2 set to tip Wednesday night. L.A. needs to even the score. Posted by Ben Golliver.

The Narrative:

The underdog New Orleans Hornets -- smaller, less talented and with a weaker bench than the favored Los Angeles Lakers -- played a near perfect Game 1 . That meant protecting the ball, getting huge contributions from their reserves and enjoying a masterful performance from point guard Chris Paul. Paul's huge night -- 33 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds and four steals -- and late-game efficiency clearly had the Lakers on their heels. Aside from Kobe Bryant, whose 34 points led the way, and some flashes from Andrew Bynum, the Lakers mostly no-showed. Pau Gasol was passive and unproductive -- eight points and six rebounds in 38 minutes -- and has taken a lion's share of the blame.

The Hook:

Quite simply: Do the Lakers finally flip the switch in Game 2? L.A.'s late-season play (they lost five of their last seven entering the playoffs) and lackluster effort have been well-chronicled. Despite that, the Los Angeles continues to possess match-up advantages all over the court. The Hornets have no real answer for Bryant, shouldn't have an answer for a motivated Gasol, struggled to contain Bynum's length, and could easily become the victim of a monster performance from Lamar Odom off the bench on any given night.

In essence, Game 2 boils down to whether the Lakers core players show up, as a group, locked in. If they do, L.A. should be able to restore order fairly easily on their homecourt. If not, it will be panic time.

The Adjustment:

Flipping that switch will start on the defensive end, where the odds dictate that the Hornets' bench will not shoot a combined 16-22 again. Expecting the role players to fall back to Earth doesn't solve the Chris Paul conundrum, though. Keeping Paul in check is a difficult proposition for any team. Expect the Lakers to throw multiple looks at him, and to work extra hard to get the ball out of his hands. The return of reserve guard Steve Blake, who was battling chicken pox , can't hurt. Blake's not a Paul-stopper by any means, but his ability to give some minutes allows L.A. to return to its usual guard rotations, lessening the burden on Derek Fisher, who played 39 minutes -- 11 more than his season average -- in Game 1.

The X-Factor:

On Tuesday, the NBA awarded Odom its Sixth Man of the Year award , and his teammates reportedly celebrated the occasion by offering him a standing ovation. Wednesday would be a great time for Odom to deliver on that adulation with a game-changing performance. Odom scored 10 points in Game 1 but his all-around play was lacking. He had just one rebound, two assists and he committed more turnovers (one) than he registered steals and blocks combined (zero). New Orleans' team intensity level offers some explanation for why L.A.'s bench came up small in Game 1, but there's no excuse at this point. Odom is a more skilled all-around player than every frontcourt player on the Hornets' roster. Even though it's only Game 2 of the opening round, we've reached "making presence felt" time for Odom.

The Sticking Point:

Reserve big man Aaron Gray is questionable for Game 2 with a sprained ankle , which usually wouldn't matter. But Gray played out of his mind in Game 1, holding Gasol in check for stretches, making all five of his field goal attempts to finish with 12 points, and posting an astonishing +25 in the +/- category. Gray was so good that Paul called him the MVP of Game 1. Without Gray, New Orleans is left with a frontcourt rotation that includes Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry, D.J. Mbenga and Jason Smith. Both Okafor and Landry have their hands full avoiding foul trouble and Mbenga showed in Game 1 that about all he was good for was hacking Bynum. Gray, however improbable it might seem, is a difference-maker because the Hornets' are simply that desperate for big bodies. If he can't go, it could be another long night on the boards for the Hornets, as the Lakers won the rebounding battle, 41-33, in Game 1. [Update: following Wednesday's shootaround, Gray says he will give it a go.]

Since: Sep 1, 2006
Posted on: April 20, 2011 10:38 pm

Series Reset: A must-win for the Lakers?

When the Lakers showup they are clearly the best team in the NBA, this coming from a Celtics fan.  I think the only two teams that can beat the Lakers in a 7 game series are the Thunder and the Heat.  The Thunder would need a huge series out of Westbrook and Durant to beat the Lakers and even that might not be enough.  The Heat are the toughest matchup for the Lakers.  Kobe would need to guard Dwayne Wade or Lebron and that would cost Kobe and the Lakers on the offensive side of the ball.  However the Heat have no answers for Bynum and Odom, I just can't see the Lakers not winning the NBA finals.  Finals prediction is the Lakers over the Heat in 6 games. 

Since: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: April 20, 2011 10:37 pm

Series Reset: A must-win for the Lakers?

WUsTheMan absolutely nailed it. The Los Angeles Lakers played with absolutely no urgency whatsoever as a team. But let's give full credit to the New Orleans Hornets - they had a wonderful game plan and they executed it to perfection, while allowing Chris Paul to be Chris Paul. 

If the Lakers show up and play to their capabilities, this game should be a win for them. As many other commenters have noted, there is a significant talent disparity between the two teams. But if LA can't control Paul and if the Lakers as a team play with the kind of lackadaisical approach that was all too apparent in Game One, then yes, the Hornets could very well go back to New Orleans with a  2-0 lead.

Personally, I agree with WUsTheMan. I think that the Lakers will indeed show up to play this evening and I also believe that while Chris Paul will again have a superior game, his teammates will not be able to replicate their achievements from Sunday. And the Lakers will be able to use their huge advantages inside to pummel New Orleans - which of course should be the Lakers preferred game plan!

LA has had issues with focus all season. But this is the Playoffs. Even though it is my considered opinion that the Lakers are the best team, if they don't bring their A-game, the Hornets have already proven that they are eminently beatable. if this was a much-needed wake-up call, I think we will see a very different Lakers team tonight. If not, well....we shall see.

Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: April 20, 2011 7:11 pm

Series Reset: A must-win for the Lakers?

again another good post. needs to get a grip. Did you even see the game? Clearly not. It was not a fluke it was CP3 playing like the legend he is and LA not being able to stop him and Monty's def. gameplan on limiting Gasol and Bynum.

Stick to Nickelodeon .

Since: Nov 14, 2008
Posted on: April 20, 2011 5:38 pm

Series Reset: A must-win for the Lakers?

CBS is just trying to make things interesting. They put out a piece after the 76ers were not completely blown out in Game 1 about how they might have a shot. Right. It'd be a miracle if they won a game.

The Hornets winning Game 1 was a fluke and they will be lucky to win more than that one. Six games at best. I hate the Lakers, but come on...this one won't be close from here on in.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 20, 2011 3:58 pm

Series Reset: A must-win for the Lakers?

Game 1 of this series was certainly no fluke.  The Hornets knew they would have to play their very best game of the year simply to stay with the Lakers.  They brought it.  The Lakers, on the other hand were certain if they simply showed up, that they would easily win this game, and a quick series.  Surprise.  This combination of respective expectations led to a victory for the underdog in an away game mind you.  Clearly, this has to serve as a wake up call for the entire Laker organization.  I think it does and we'll see a different, much better Laker performance tonight.  Plus, I seriously doubt if the Hornets and Chris Paul will duplicate their nearly perfect Game 1 performance.  The Lakers are clearly the superior team, by quite a margin.  I think the Lakers get game 2.  But if the apathy returns with them to Game 2, all bets are off.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or