Blog Entry

Series Reset: How much do the Lakers care?

Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:48 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:05 pm
We reset the Hornets-Lakers series with Game 4 set to tip Sunday night. Posted by Ben Golliver. 

The Narrative: 

We've learned a few things through the first three games of this series. First, Los Angeles has a clear, readily-exploitable size advantage over New Orleans, a gap so significant that the Hornets have no available adjustments. They just have to hope that Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum (preferably both) decide not to dominate. Second, the Hornets need a monster night from Chris Paul to create an environment for their role players to succeed. If Paul isn't going off, the other Hornets wings haven't proven capable of generating their own offense on a consistent basis. Third, we've learned that Los Angeles approaches these games with varying degrees of intensity. 

In Game 1, the Lakers were surprised by an all-round gem from Paul and were too stunned to recover. In Games 2 and 3, they committed more energy and thought on the defensive end, and New Orleans looked like it was drowning. Game 4, then, comes down to how focused the Lakers decide to be. They've regained home court advantage in the series, and could easily treat this as a coast game. New Orleans, on the other hand, clearly sees this as a must-win. Will that gap in motivation be enough to overcome L.A.'s talent gap? Or will the Lakers handle this one professionally so they can close this thing down in Game 5 at Staples Center? 

The Hook: 

Chris Paul has been lauded for years for his competitiveness, and rightfully so. After going for 33 points and 14 assists in Game 1, he's been limited to 20 and nine in Game 2, then 22 and eight in Game 3. Those numbers are still solid but, unfortunately, insufficient. As a team, the Hornets scored just 78 points in Game 2 and 86 points in Game 3. Paul's output (scoring plus assists) represents roughly half of their offense in both contests. New Orleans simply needs more from him. Game 4 will be a referendum on Paul's ability as a one-man show. Yes, he'll get some help from Carl Landry, who has steadily produced 17.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in this series. Landry only has the potential to hold his match-up even, though. Paul has the ability and raw to make match-ups irrelevant. He'll need to be gigantic if New Orleans wants to have a chance to play another home game in this series. 

The Adjustment: 

"Shoot the ball better" might not qualify as an adjustment, but it's a change that's necessary for the Hornets, who hit just two of their 13 shots from outside in Game 3. When you're as badly outmatched in the interior as the Hornets are, the best remedy is to space the floor well, put your shooters in their high-efficiency areas and move the ball quickly to find open shots. Then, of course, knock them down. If New Orleans can get hot from outside, the Lakers will likely turn to a slightly smaller lineup to compensate and that could make life a little easier on the glass for the Hornets. But if those shots aren't falling? Same old story. 

The X-Factor: 

Before Game 3 we tried to pin New Orleans' hope on either Willie Green or Jarrett Jack, but the combination promptly went out and combined to shoot 1-10 and score just two points in the loss. Rather than repeat that mistake, let's just say that ANY Hornets player under 6'7" not named Chris Paul needs to score in volume in Game 4. Whether that's Marco Belinelli making up for his 1-7 shooting from outside, Trevor Ariza shocking everyone with some nice scoring output or Green and/or Jack finally deciding to show up, the Hornets need a third weapon to complement Paul and Landry. And, to offset Kobe Bryant, who outscored Paul, Belinelli, Green and Jack combined in Game 3. 

The Sticking Point: 

Even if New Orleans does everything right -- competes on the boards, knocks down their outside shots, gets a huge night from Paul -- there's still the Kobe Bryant factor to contend with. Bryant hit for 30 in Game 3, including some back-breaking three-pointers that kept New Orleans at bay. His individual performance forces the Hornets to commit so much defensive attention to him that life for Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher is just that much easier. All three of those guys shot 50% or better from the field in Game 3 and should have plenty of clean looks in Game 4 as well. It's a pick-your-poison type of situation for the Hornets, who we know won't go down without a fight. 

Still, this one is far less about their effort level and far more about L.A.'s. If the Lakers show up, this series will be entering its final chapter. 

Since: Sep 4, 2010
Posted on: April 24, 2011 10:00 pm

Series Reset: How much do the Lakers care?

This series was over before it began, and they will not be challenged until the Finals against either the Celtics or Heat.  Bulls do not make it past either of those two teams.

Since: May 16, 2007
Posted on: April 24, 2011 4:53 pm

Series Reset: How much do the Lakers care?

I agree the only variable in this series is whether the Lakers can maintain their level of focus and intensity, particularly on the road.. If they do, this series is over. There's simply now way the Hornets can compete with the capabilities, depth, and talent of the Lakers. They're simply overwhelmed, with the exception of Chris Paul. I really can't figure out why Paul stays with this team. He's one of the best in the league, and is surrounded by nothing. Bet he's not with the Hornets next year. But, back to the subject. I think the Lakers are still stinging from game 1 in this series with the Hornets. That is enough to get their attention for this entire series. Big surprise if the Hornets can sneak out another win.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:44 pm

Series Reset: How much do the Lakers care?

This series represents the biggest mismatch, by far, in the first round of the playoffs.  On any given gay, the Lakers are heavily favored over the Hornets, regardless if it is home or away.  Sure, if all the stars line up just right, the Hornets could sneak another win in this series (read: Chris Paul lights it up, as in game 1, AND the Lakers don't show up again).  This is highly improbable, yet it is possible.  The Lakers are simply too big and talented at every position when it comes to the Hornets.  And their bench is the same.  I was shocked when the Hornets won the first game, and will be stunned if they can pull out another win in this series against the Lakers.  This series was really over before it began.  But, don't look ahead just yet Lakers.  The Hornets are an NBA team with several very capable players and a superstar.  This does demand your attention to close this series out.

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: April 24, 2011 3:20 pm

Series Reset: How much do the Lakers care?

This is a nice little article, but really the only factor to this game 4 is like you said it: The Laker's intensity level.  That's really the only thing holding the Lakers back from getting to the Finals again (because I honestly don't think any team in the West is as deep, or widely talented as LA right now anyways), the East is a different story, and one that definitely shouldn't be looked at yet.
The Lakers by in no means am I saying have an easy route to the Finals, it's just one that only depends on them.  If they get there, great they came out and played how everyone (haters and lovers of LA) thought they'd play like, or, they'd underachieve and let the LA fans whine and the haters rejoice.
As long as Andrew Bynum gets off to his great 1st halfs (mostly 1st quarters), Ron Artest doesn't hawk up too many shots, Lamar Odom keeps playing at his level, and Pau Gasol grows some balls and plays like a big man, all the other players like Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown, and even Steve Blake will provide on an inconsistent basis.

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