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Tag:Aaron Gray
Posted on: April 25, 2011 2:16 am
 

NBA Playoffs: The insatiable, unstoppable CP3

CP3 again. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Among the pack of top free agents in the NBA who love to hang with each other, who have shared toasts and fireworks and locker space, Chris Paul stands apart. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, the list goes on. Those players are friendly. They came into the league at the same time, have the same priorities, the same approach. But Paul, as friendly as he is with those players, is different in one simple regard. 

He wants to win more. 

This isn't to say that the others don't want to win. These are competitors on the highest level. But there is a gap. The only player that rivals Paul is Wade, the only player among them with a championship ring, a testament to that will. But even Wade has his businesses, the commercials, the distractions with the Heat, the culture of branding that he operates in. Again, this isn't an indictment. Wade has proven time and time again, just as James and the rest (no matter what popular sentiment has determined) that he will deliver in the key moments, spend the extra time, fight through the injuries, do what it takes to get a win. 

But Paul? 

Paul wants it just a little bit more. 

It's in his DNA. He's arguably the only player in the league with the competitiveness level of Kobe Bryant. So to see him slashing, dashing, and breaking Bryant's ankles has a certain level of appropriateness to it, even if the Lakers remain a significant favorite to win this series. Paul's history of intensity dates back to college, and the physical lengths he would go to in order to win a game. In the NBA, he's been, when healthy, the consensus best point guard in the league (bearing in mind that Derrick Rose is about as far from a pure point as it gets. Rose is his own thing, Bulls fans, let's not make everything about Rose, as awesome as he is.).  He's also struggled through years with subpar casts, but this year, with the team's future in New Orleans in doubt, he's maintained. 

There were questions this season, to be sure. Paul told Ken Berger that he was looking at longevity this season, that that was weighing on his mind. It led us to discuss the possibility Paul was holding back for the playoffs. 

Yeah, about that. 

On Sunday night, Paul dropped a triple-double, his second in four games of this series. Paul joins Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Mookie Blaylock, Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd, and Baron Davis in the list of players to drop multiple triple-doubles in one series. Paul's second half line? 23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists. Are you kidding me? You have to be kidding me. This cannot be real life. This is not reality. This is some mistifying fantasy where a player comes out and does that to the defending champs. It was brilliant. It was exceptional. 

It was a perfect example of the lengths Paul will go to in order to win. Trevor Ariza noted after the game that he had six rebounds. The Hornets' big man, Emeka Okafor had 6 rebounds. Chris Paul had 13 rebounds, against the tallest and longest frontcourt in the National Basketball Association in a pivotal playoff game where he was also scoring and running the offense. Oh, and he had two steals. There was nothing more you could ask for from Paul. How often do you really get to say that about a player? That you cand identify what he gave as absolutely everything. Put it another way, which isn't really fair, I'll admit off the bat. How often have you really, truly said that about what you felt LeBron James' maximum effort could be. 

The Lakers certainly played their part in this. But the effort from Kobe Bryant in Game 3 to slow Paul was unable to overcome CP3 in Game 4. To be fair, a seven nation army couldn't hold Paul back in Game 4. The range-game, the whip-pass, the drive and drop, the floater, it was the entire range. Chris Paul doesn't wind up with exceptional games in February, he saves his best for when his team needs it most. Down 2-1 in front of a desperate crowd on the verge of losing the Hornets as a part of their community, Paul answered.  We talk a lot about great players, about what makes a player the kind you remember five, ten, fifteen years after their days are over. CP3's performance Sunday night? It fit that description perfectly. 

The Hornets have tied the series with the champs, with Aaron Gray and Carl Landry as key contributors. Paul has shown once again why he is without question the best pure point in the league. The Lakers may very well advance in the playoffs from this series. But if they do so, they'll have to fight Chris Paul to the very last second to get that fourth win. And even then they'll know what we all know, what we've seen. 

Chris Paul just wants it a little bit more. 
Posted on: April 17, 2011 7:42 pm
 

NBA Playoffs Hornets-Lakers: The return of CP3

Chris Paul returns to prominence in an incredible performance against the Lakers in Game 1. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Derrick Rose. Rajon Rondo. Russell Westbrook. Great point guards all. But after a season where he looked indecisive at times, inconsistent and passive, Chris Paul stepped onto the biggest stage and showed everyone why he's considered the best "pure" point guard in the game. 

(Before we get started, Derrick Rose is the presumptive MVP of the league. Bulls fans, let's not start a fight about who's better. They're both great. Let's leave it at that.)

After the Hornets' win over the Lakers, here were some of the trending topics on Twitter: "#cp3" was No.1, and "#chrispaul" was No.3. The world took notice. It was easy to see why. Paul blistered the Lakers the entire game, drowning Derek Fisher in ISO and pick and roll situations. Late in the game, to show the amount of confusion on the Lakers' side, Pau Gasol was put on an island against one of the quickest players in the NBA. Paul calmly crossed him over and nailed a dagger fadeaway jumper. 

The praise was unanimous for CP3, and it really put him back on the map. For most of the season, Paul played extremely well at times, and extremely passive at times. He would let others take the lead. But without David West, Paul became the intiator, and took the team on his back. That's the Hornets' best option of attack in a series where they are woefully overmatched in size and ability. But as long as the Lakers continue to attempt to guard Paul with Fisher and be lazy on their help, Paul will have opportunities. 




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Posted on: April 17, 2011 7:08 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 3:10 am
 

NBA Playoffs Hornets-Lakers: perfectly upsetting

The New Orleans Hornets delivered a stunning Game One defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers. How worried should LA be? Posted by Ben Golliver.

hornets-lakers

The New Orleans Hornets beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 109-100, in Game One of their first round playoff series, and coach Monty Williams couldn't have drawn it up any better. Everything he could have wanted to go right did go right, and even some things that no one could have expected fell in the Hornets' favor. The "Can lightning strike twice?" question hangs over this result like a thundercloud, but its worth cataloguing New Orleans' many triumphs before turning our attention to Game Two adjustments.

All-Star point guard Chris Paul, of course, leads any breakdown of this game. In the fourth quarter he was as unstoppable as he's been at any point in his career, scoring 17 points in the final quarter on a variety of jumpers, drawing fouls seemingly at will. You can't blame Lakers guard Derek Fisher too for the explosion, as he generally played textbook defense and made Paul work. The Lakers did switch a few high screen-and-rolls and Paul exploited mismatches with Lakers bigs -- particularly Pau Gasol -- to create space for jumpshots. But this was about an All-Star being locked all the way in, finishing with 33 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds, four steals and just two turnovers in 41 minutes, commanding New Orleans' offense with intelligence and using his quick hands and excellent instincts to full effect on defense. Los Angeles has made a habit of getting behind early and digging itself out late: Paul's two-way play made sure there would be no comeback.

It would be a mistake to call this a one-man show, though, as New Orleans' role players came up huge. Who could have expected the Hornets bench -- one of the weaker groups in the playoffs -- to combine for 39 points on an amazing 72% shooting from the field, led by a perfect 5-5 from reserve center Aaron Gray and 5-6 from guard Jarrett Jack. Every man on the Hornets bench finished with a positive +/- for the game, with Gray posting a whopping +25 in his 20 minutes. Will they play as well as a group again in this series? Probably not.

As big as those contributions was New Orleans' overall defensive effort, which can only be described as excellent. Trevor Ariza frustrated Kobe Bryant down the stretch, New Orleans' undersized bigs did an excellent job of managing Los Angeles' long frontline and the Hornets scored 17 points off of 13 Lakers turnovers, a critical difference-maker given that the Hornets turned the ball over just three times (!) the entire game. By comparison, New Orleans' season-low for turnovers in the regular season was five.

Again, everything went right for the Hornets. They dominated the possession game. Their bench badly outplayed LA's. Chris Paul won the match-up of superstars against Kobe Bryant (35 points, four rebounds, five assists, five turnovers). Improbably, both Carl Landry (17 points, five boards) and Aaron Gray (12 points) scored more than Pau Gasol (eight points, six boards).

That last sentence, more than any other reason, is why it's difficult to believe New Orleans' Game One stunner will be sustainable. The Hornets lost Gray in the game's final minute to a nasty ankle injury, and getting more from Gasol will be at the top of the list of Lakers adjustments. Gasol's face was cut and bloodied early in the game and he was an absolute non-factor down the stretch, attempting just two shots in the fourth quarter (one was a lay-up with the game out of reach). Without Gray, who looked like New Orleans' most capable one-on-one post defender aside from Emeka Okafor, the Hornets' frontline will be stretched to an even greater degree, with Carl Landry, D.J. Mbenga and Jason Smith called into greater service. If that trio winds up getting the best of Gasol over a seven-game series, he might need to consider entering the Witness Protection Program.

The Lakers can also get more from center Andrew Bynum, who scored easily around the basket, playing over the top of New Orleans after Okafor got into some early foul trouble. Bynum finished with a respectable 13 points and nine rebounds and the Lakers would do well to pound it into him more than they did on Sunday. Mbenga resorted to desperation hard fouls on Bynum multiple times and there's no reason the Lakers shouldn't be parading to the free throw line throughout the rest of this series.

Given how many breaks went New Orleans' way, it's not panic time yet for the Lakers. They'll need to re-think their defense on Paul, paying him extra attention and perhaps using Kobe Bryant to defend him more often. They'll certainly need to turn to Gasol more often and he'll need to show up. More than anything, Los Angeles simply needs to realize they likely took New Orleans' best punch. The same match-up advantages that made them prohibitive favorites entering the series are still there. And, pending Gray's availability, could be even more pronounced. 

Internal motivation remains the biggest issue for the Lakers, who played flat through stretches, particularly in the first half, on Sunday. New Orleans delivered a wake-up call to a team that's lacked focus for a few weeks now. LA needs to respond in Game Two. And, given their talent advantages and enhanced motivation following the loss, it would be shocking if they didn't.
Posted on: October 13, 2010 9:56 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2010 11:12 pm
 

Hornets have themselves a DJ (Mbenga) party

Hornets sign former Laker center. Posted by Matt Moore

Well that  didn't take long. After the workout we told you about earlier for the New Orleans Hornets of former Laker reserve D.J. MBenga, the Hornets went ahead and signed D.J. Mbenga to a contract, via a team press release . Mbenga will provide size to a team that desperately needs it. Aaron Gray is in the position of being the guy everyone says is a "nice player" down low for them. He actually is really nice, but they're going to need bodies, especially if they have any injuries down low. Mbenga also brings a championship knowledge of... okay, I can't finish that.

But in all seriousness, Mbenga is discussed as one of the best locker room guys and is beloved by coaches and reporters. Hopefully he can find a home in New Orleans and catch a few lobs from Chris Paul.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com