Tag:2011 Hornets-Lakers
Posted on: April 26, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 2:08 pm
 

Is this panic time for the Los Angeles Lakers?

The New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers head into Game 5 tied at 2 games apiece. Posted by Ben Golliver.
hornets-beat-la


Is it panic time for the Los Angeles Lakers? Not ... quite ... yet. But there are certainly reasons for it to feel that way, as their playoff series with the New Orleans Hornets is tied 2-2.

The biggest reason, of course, is Chris Paul's electric brilliance and will. Paul has engineered two wins so far this series, breaking down L.A.'s defense off the dribble and stubbornly carrying his team through Laker runs, imbuing a relatively weak supporting cast with confidence in the face of L.A.'s size and skill.

The second biggest reason is the status of Kobe Bryant's sprained ankle. As of Tuesday, Bryant was refusing tests on the ankle and saying that he would play in Game 5. Bryant has shown the ability to adjust his shot while playing on a bum ankle, but it's his lateral movement on defense that is of larger concern. The Lakers have used him to bump and bother Paul, sometimes in full-court manner, and a bad wheel makes that process infinitely more difficult and painful. Paul made it clear he was ready for war with Bryant in Game 4 and surely Bryant is up to the challenge. How will playing with pain affect his decision-making and shot selection? Will Lakers coach Phil Jackson adjust his minutes in any way, or use it as an excuse to pound the ball inside more often, particularly early?

Any time you're dealing with a superstar you struggle to stop, as well as an injury to your own superstar, it's enough to raise the blood pressure. But L.A. has won twice in this series already, still possesses home court advantage and can take solace in the fact that superhero efforts don't come along every night. 

Indeed, this series has been as much about players 4-10 as it has been about Paul vs. Bryant. During the Hornets wins, New Orleans' bench averaed 28.5 points per game (a figure propped up a bit by a monster Game 1). During Lakers wins, New Orleans' bench averaged 11 points per game. Hornets shooters -- Marco Belinelli, Willie Green and Jarrett Jack -- are the definition of "hot or not." They've proven to be inconsistent through four games. It's possible, if not probable, they could prove to be unreliable over the next three, despite Paul's best efforts to make their lives easy.

Similarly, L.A.'s bench has been up and down this series, although the peaks and valleys aren't as steep. In Hornets wins, the Lakers bench is averaging 19.5 points per game. In Lakers wins, L.A.'s bench is averaging 23.5 points per game. The headliner in those numbers is, of course, Lamar Odom, who presented New Orleans with a lot of problems in Games 2 and 3, but simply couldn't buy a basket in Game 4. Plus, he wasn't consistently assertive enough to make up for it at the free throw line, on defense, or on the glass. A return to form from Odom would go a long way to easing the burden on Bryant, and his ankle. It would also likely push New Orleans to the brink. 

And that's why it's not yet panic time. If the choice is between expecting Odom to bounce back at home and crossing your fingers that Belinelli, Green and/or Jack show up on the road, you'd pick "Option A" every time. So it's not yet panic time, but there's no longer any margin for error or room for excuses.
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 25, 2011 1:22 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 1:36 am
 

Chris Paul: 'I'd hit my mama too' interview video

New Orleans point guard Chris Paul jokes that he would hit his mother if she was on the court playing against him after he led the Hornets to a Game 4 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Posted by Ben Golliver.

What a ridiculous night for New Orleans All-Star point guard Chris Paul. He crossed up Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant hard. He led the Hornets to a huge Game 4 win over the Lakers to even the series at two games apiece by dropping a line that hasn't been put up in the last 20 postseasons: 27 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists.

When it all was all said and done though, Paul played the role of stand-up comedian in his post-game interview. Asked by TNT's Cheryl Miller about his back-and-forth with Bryant on the court, which included a hard foul on a Bryant lay-up attempt, Paul let loose with a punchline that's sure to be repeated ad nauseam over the next few days. 

"He'd do me the same way," Paul said. "You know, it's all in fun but this is our livelihood. I don't care if my mama was out on the court I'd hit her too." 

Here's the video.



Mrs. Paul wasn't CP3's only foil in this clip. Teammate Trevor Ariza snuck up behind Paul to give him a bear hug from behind, which Paul greeted with a "pause" on national television before carrying on with the interview like nothing happened.

One way or another, politically correct or not, this guy was non-stop entertainment on Sunday night.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 12:22 am
Edited on: April 25, 2011 1:32 am
 

Kobe Bryant on crutches after spraining ankle

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant injured his left ankle against the New Orleans Hornets in Game 4. Posted by Ben Golliver.

During the closing minutes of Game 4 against New Orleans, Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant tweaked his left ankle while defending Hornets guard Willie Green.

Bryant, who had battled left ankle problems earlier this season, appeaered to badly roll his left ankle as Green attacked the paint. Bryant's momentum carried him into Green and he was whistled for a foul. After consulting with Lakers coach Phil Jackson and the team's training staff, Bryant re-entered the game and finished out the stretch.

The Hornets pulled out the Game 4 win, 93-88.

Following the game, Yahoo! Sports reported: "Kobe has crutches and lakers say they're considering MRI on injured ankle. Kobe acknowledged concern about what he called a left foot, not ankle, injury but expects to play in Game 5."

The Orange County Register added: "The Lakers likely will have Bryant undergo an MRI exam and X-ray Monday. They are calling it a sprained ankle for now."

Here's video of the injury. 



More details on Bryant's condition as they become available.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 11:26 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 11:33 pm
 

Chris Paul crosses up Kobe Bryant video

New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul hit Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant with a mean crossover during Game 4 of their Western Conference playoff series. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Just before halftime of Game 4 between the New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers, Hornets point guard Chris Paul added Lakers guard Kobe Bryant to his crossover victims list, nailing him with a vicious left-to-right cross at the top of the key before getting to the basket to finish an uncontested lay-up. 

Paul methodically dribbled near the three-point line, setting Bryant up with a behind-the-back dribble from his right to the left. As Bryant leaned in, Paul unleashed the beast, crossing back over to his strong hand and leaving Bryant in cement shoes. A few power steps and Paul was near the rim, where he kissed in the lay-up as he crashed into the baseline crowd.

Here's a look at the video.



The obvious comparison is Allen Iverson's immortal crossover of Michael Jordan, in which he set it up with a similar back-and-forth rocking motion. Bryant was left grasping at air just like Jordan was, although Iverson settled for hitting a pull-up jumper rather than attacking the basket. 

In case you haven't watched an NBA game in the last 15 years, here's video of Iverson working Jordan courtesy of YouTube user vanessama.



Iverson's cross is seen as a stepping stone in Jordan's aging process and the heralding of a new generation of players. Paul's doesn't carry that kind of weight. Bryant is still near the top of his game, and the Lakers remain atop of the NBA. 

Still, sick.
Posted on: April 24, 2011 2:48 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 3:05 pm
 

Series Reset: How much do the Lakers care?

We reset the Hornets-Lakers series with Game 4 set to tip Sunday night. Posted by Ben Golliver. 
bynum-hornets

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. 
Posted on: April 23, 2011 12:42 am
Edited on: April 23, 2011 12:58 am
 

NBA Playoffs: Lakers restore order over Hornets

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home court advantage. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kobe-ariza

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets, 100-86, in a Friday night game that played out exactly like pre-series expectations dictated. On offense and defense, both teams played according to form ... bad news for the plucky Hornets who must play way over their heads to keep up with the Lakers. 

Lakers Offense

In Friday's Series Reset, we made the fairly obvious prediction that Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant would make a major return to form after an off-night in Game 2. It happened. Bryant scored 30 points on 10-20 shooting, soloing a bit too much, but still hitting a wide variety of circus shots and more than half of his three-point attempts. Trevor Ariza put up a game fight, but Bryant got where he needed to get, including the free throw line, where he hit a number of second half shots that helped stave off any late Hornets push.

Pau Gasol got off to a bit of a slow start but he fought through the war of attrition, tallying 17 points and 10 rebounds and surprising everyone in the building by knocking down a corner three. The force of his fist pump afterwards revealed the level of frustration he'd been feeling throughout the series to this point. More than anything, Gasol just out-worked his struggles. He hit the glass hard, especially on the offensive end, and played a nice two-man game with Andrew Bynum, who was also a force with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Hornets Offense

There's nothing here for them to hang their heads about, but the non-existent bench did them in once again. In the reset, we talked about the importance of either Willie Green or Jarrett Jack stepping up. The pair combined for two points on 1-10 shooting. The Hornets' starters simply can't play five-on-eight against the deeper Lakers.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul was very good, but not otherworldly. And, in this series, very good simply won't cut it. His 22 points, eight assists and five rebounds made life easier for everyone around him, but all five Hornets starters finished at -10 or less for the game while all five Lakers starters finished +11 or greater. That's a fairly straightforward butt-kicking, and it was one that Paul, who was paid plenty of attention again, was hopeless to overcome.

Lakers Defense

L.A. did a nice job of containing Paul again, but more than anything they simply played a fundamentally sound strategic game. They didn't allow the Hornets out in transition for easy baskets. They did a decide job of clearing the defensive glass. 

And, most importantly, they took their chances with the Hornets' role players beating them from outside. The Hornets are merely an average three-point shooting team, and the 1-7 from deep by Marco Belinelli killed New Orleans' offensive efficiency. No one else really tried to bomb from deep. 

Hornets Defense

As in Game 2, Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry tried to stand up to the Lakers' bigs, but with little effect. The Okafor/Landry pair actually outscored Bynum/Gasol, 38-31, boosted in part by Landry's 11-12 from the free throw line. The numbers are a bit deceptive, though, as Lamar Odom chipped in 13 points and the Lakers' bigs combined to shoot 17-32 despite Gasol's early struggles. 

Bynum was a wrecking ball early, scoring around the rim at will and tossing in a beauty of a lefty jump hook. He had 12 points in the first 18 minutes, and that was pretty much that. 

L.A.'s length and depth, along with Bryant's attack, made the difference on Friday night. In other words, the Lakers firmly restored order after slipping up in Game 1.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 6:05 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 6:21 pm
 

Series Reset: Can the Lakers regain home court?

We reset the Hornets-Lakers series with Game 3 set to tip Friday night. Posted by Ben Golliver.

bynum-gasol


The Narrative:

The Los Angeles Lakers showed up on Wednesday, evening their first round playoff series with the upstart, over-achieving New Orleans Hornets at one game apiece. The way Game 2 unfolded is how most thought this series would play out, with the Lakers pounding the ball to center Andrew Bynum and the Hornets helpless to stop him. Contributions from Ron Artest and Lamar Odom made up for off nights from Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, which goes to show the gap in talent between the two sides. L.A.'s top two players can have off nights -- a combined 5-20 shooting and 19 points -- yet the Lakers can still roll fairly easily. On the flip side, if Chris Paul isn't excellent, the Hornets don't have a chance. 

Despite that talent gap, the Hornets stole homecourt advantage in Game 1 and now it's incumbent upon them to protect it as the series shifts to New Orleans for Games 3 and 4.

The Hook:

Game 3 has all the makings for a frustrated and vengeful Kobe Bryant -- bent on making amends for his Game 2 performance -- looking to set the tone early. The Lakers used Bryant and a host of other defenders against Paul in Game 2. The extra attention limited Paul to 20 points and nine assists, numbers that Lakers coach would be thrilled to see again in Game 3.

Aside from Bryant's impact on both ends, look for some force-feeding to Gasol as well. The Lakers can't afford to continue to get marginal production from their talented big man. The undersized, but strong, Carl Landry has played him well and scored on the other end; It's time for Gasol to take back ownership of that match-up.

The Adjustment:

Andrew Bynum fouled out in Game 2, but not before playing 32 minutes, shooting 8-11, putting up a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double. In the process, he looked like the NBA's second best center. The big adjustment here is whether the officials will treat him differently on the road. How often do we see aggressive big men hampered by early whistles in road playoff games? How often do we see them respond with frustration rather than precision? Keeping Bynum on the floor and actively engaged will be crucial for L.A. to take back the home court.

The X-Factor:

After being held to under 80 points in Game 2, it's incumbent upon New Orleans' role players to provide an additional scoring punch. One guy to watch is guard Willie Green, who took just six shots in 12 minutes and wasn't much of a factor. If not Green, then Jarrett Jack, who was big in Game 1. Unfortunately for New Orleans, both Green and Jack had better scoring numbers on the road than at home this season, and neither got loose in any of the Hornets' four regular season losses to the Lakers. That could be a problem.

The Sticking Point:

The Achilles heel for New Orleans in Game 2 was their defensive rebounding, as the Lakers grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and won the battle of the boards overall, 44-36. There's really no easy solution other than five-man effort on the glass, given the personnel available to them. L.A. brought the effort on the offensive glass in Game 2, something they don't always do consistently. Both Games 1 and 2 were played at New Orleans' preferred slow pace, but second-chance opportunities and extended possessions ruin that comfort zone in a heartbeat. If I'm Hornets coach Monty Williams, I'm drilling the "keep our boards clean" point home during the pre-game talk.
 
 
 
 
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