Tag:2011 Lakers-Hornets
Posted on: April 21, 2011 3:32 am
Edited on: April 21, 2011 4:09 am

NBA Playoffs Hornets-Lakers: Bynum big in Game 2

The Los Angeles Lakers evened their first round series with the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Championship teams can beat you at their game, and they can beat you at your game, too.

The Los Angeles Lakers looked like a genuine contender for the first time in a few weeks on Wednesday, downing the New Orleans Hornets in fairly ugly fashion, 87-79, to even their first-round series, 1-1. Only the Portland Trail Blazers played at a slower pace than New Orleans this season, and the out-gunned Hornets are happy to muck around in a low-scoring, sloppy setting when facing the longer, more athletic and more talented Lakers. With Kobe Bryant having an off night -- 11 points on 3-10 shooting -- and Pau Gasol continuing to do his Invisible Man routine -- eight points and five rebounds -- Wednesday was the rare night. If was a night in which Andrew Bynum became L.A.'s headliner. 

The biggest man on the court was the obvious difference-maker, showing up huge in the box score and the game plan. And Bynum's contributions were especially valuable on a night when both teams combined to commit 29 turnovers, and were whistled for 42 fouls that led to 54 free throws.

For a center, owning the paint comes down to finishing at the rim and clearing the defensive glass in traffic. That was Bynum's Modus operandi in Game 2, after proving in Game 1 that no one on the Hornets' undersized roster can really handle his strength and bulk in the post. 

On Wednesday, the Lakers smartly exploited that fact, turning to Bynum regularly in the halfcourt set. Bynum scored 17 points on 8-11 shooting and had Emeka Okafor in early foul trouble again. Bynum was also the reason that many New Orleans possessions went one shot and done, as he gathered in 10 defensive rebounds and helped hold the New Orleans' bigs (Okafor, Carl Landry, Aaron Gray, Jason Smith, D.J. Mbenga, Jason Smith) to just five combined offensive boards in 93 minutes. 

Bynum showed comfort away from the basket on both ends, too. On offense, he stepped out to hit a few jumpers of varied length. If developed, that's a dimension to his game that could make him lethal. On defense, meanwhile, he ran regularly at Hornets point guard Chris Paul, especially late, contesting shots and walling off the court. Taking up space, but doing it with a bit of grace. His ability to step out when needed, and then return to the boards, impacted a number of scrums and, by the fourth quarter, it was clear that the Hornets bigs were worn down and simply not competing as hard as he was. Bynum's defensive numbers -- two blocks and one steal -- don't do his impact justice. 

Pro Basketball Talk quoted  Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Bynum's night.
“We know that [Bynum] is the one that plays well against this team because of his size,” Phil Jackson said after the game. “He really carries things pretty well, so we’re confident in him having a good game … we think he can play at an even higher level than this.”
Jackson's right. Bynum is still scratching the surface of his potential, mostly because he's so far down the normal offensive pecking order. Bynum scored 20+ points just once this season. Could he average 20 points per game next year if he was on a team that needed him to be the go-to scoring option, and he stayed healthy enough to play big minutes? I don't see why not.

That team isn't yet the Lakers, but it could be in a few years. Bynum's evident maturity -- there's a lot less pouting these days -- makes imagining his future a tantalizing project. How much higher a level can Bynum reach? Who knows. But he looked like the NBA's best center not named Dwight Howard on Wednesday. If he continues to play at this level, pencil the Lakers into the Western Conference Finals.

Posted on: April 20, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2011 5:37 pm

Series Reset: A must-win for the Lakers?

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.]
Posted on: April 18, 2011 9:43 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 9:46 pm

Lakers G Blake (chicken pox) returns to practice

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake returns to practice after contracting chicken pox. Posted by Ben Golliver. steve-blake

As you probably heard, New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul went off on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1, nearly posting a triple double, torching Derek Fisher down the stretch and carrying his team to a surprising upset victory.

Monday's update: help is on the way for Fisher. Reserve guard Steve Blake, who had been away from the team dealing with a case of adult chicken pox, returned to Lakers practice and is expected to play in Game 2 according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Lakers ... expect he'll return to play Game 2 on Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets, with Coach Phil Jackson saying, "He was right back on the level we want him to play." 
There were more pressing concerns, such as how Blake contracted chickenpox, a disease that mostly afflicts children.
"I have no idea. It's not like I went up to someone and shook someone's hands and they had spots all over them," Blake said. "You just don't know how you get something like that."
ESPNLA.com reported that Jackson also said he likes the idea of Blake guarding Paul.
"[Blake is] a really good alternative," Jackson said. "Chris outweighs him by about 30 pounds, but he's a really good alternative. We expect him to recover fully. Maybe I shouldn't say fully, but he looked good today. He didn't have stamina, but he looked good."
Paul, one of the most intelligent and versatile point guards in the league, is a tough guy to try to get your stamina back against. Jackson won't need to rush Blake back, though, with Fisher, Shannon Brown and All-Star Kobe Bryant comprising a solid three-guard rotation. Any minutes that Blake gives the Lakers in Game 2 will be an unexpected bonus, as most media observers had speculated that Blake could miss the entire first round series.

On the season, Blake is averaging 4.0 points and 2.2 assists in 20.0 minutes per game. He appeared in all but three regular season games for the Lakers.
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. 

Check out more data from Hornets-Lakers in our GameTracker
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.


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: April 17, 2011 6:29 pm

Aaron Gray suffers ugly looking ankle injury

Posted by Royce Young

I don't think the Hornets could've pictured a more perfect result in Los Angeles Sunday. They walked in to Staples without anyone giving them any kind of a chance and upset the defending champs 109-100 behind a huge day from the best point guard in basketball, Chris Paul. (Yeah, remember him?)

But with a minute left, the Hornets perfect day got a small smudge put on it as center Aaron Gray went down with a nasty looking rolled ankle. Gray had to be helped off the floor and appeared to be in a great deal of pain. Obviously he'll have X-rays and all the like, but I'm assuming he's doubtful for Game 2, and potentially the rest of the series. The way he grabbed high up on his leg said high ankle sprain and those are no fun.

This is a bigger blow than you might initially think. Yes, I realize we're talking Aaron Gray here, but the seven-footer was very productive Sunday for New Orleans scoring 12 points on 5-5 shooting in 20 minutes. His value inside on Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol definitely didn't show up in the box score. And with the Hornets already missing David West, they're very thin on the interior already. So subtracting Gray will definitely hurt them going forward.

It's an injury though that's a lot more important than it seems at first glance but when Chris Paul plays like Chris Paul, the Hornets can pretty much plug in anyone. Jason Smith and D.J. Mbenga will be called upon in bigger ways now to back up Emeka Okafor.

But the Hornets lead 1-0 though and if you'd have handed them at least a split in L.A. a week ago, they probably would've said, "OK, we'll trade a win in Game 1 for Aaron Gray, straight up."
Posted on: April 17, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 4:59 pm

Lakers G Kobe Bryant injures neck during Game 1

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant went down with an apparent neck injury just before halftime of Game 1 against the New Orleans Hornets. Posted by Ben Golliver.

In the closing seconds of the first half of Game 1 against the New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant hit a fallaway jumpshot in the left corner to cut New Orleans' lead to 52-44. His momentum carried him to the floor, where he slid backwards into the courtside seats. Bryant's neck contacted one of the seats with some force and he lay facedown on the ground, motionless, as the Hornets went up the court for their offensive possession.

After Hornets guard Chris Paul hit a three pointer, Lakers forward Ron Artest hit a halfcourt heave to close out the first half, 55-47. Bryant remained on the ground as the half ended and, once the buzzer sounded, Lakers staffers rushed to attend to Bryant, who was slow to get up but eventually walked off under his own power. 

During halftime, the Orange County Register reported that Bryant was diagnosed with a "bruised neck, according to Lakers PR." ABC reported that Bryant is "pretty sore" but that he did not undergo any X-Rays or further testing. Bryant is expected to play in the second half.

Here's video of what was a heart-stopping scene for Lakers fans.

Posted on: April 15, 2011 7:52 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 7:55 pm

Lakers C Bynum (knee) goes through practice

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum practiced on Friday despite a knee injury. Posted by Ben Golliver. andrew-bynum

Back on Wednesday, we noted that Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum hyperextended his knee during a Tuesday night game against the San Antonio Spurs but that an MRI revealed he had only suffered a bone bruise and no structural damage. At the time, Bynum was cleared to play for the Lakers once the postseason started.

The Lakers open their first round series with the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday and the Associated Press reports that Bynum will be ready to go after going through a full practice on Friday.
"I'm fine," Bynum said. "It's nothing that's not normal for me at this point." 
Bynum believes he'll be back to normal when second-seeded Los Angeles hosts the Hornets in the first-round opener Sunday, even while acknowledging "my normal is a little bit skewed." 
Coach Phil Jackson isn't quite so optimistic, saying he'll see how Bynum reacts from Friday's practice on Saturday before guessing how effective he'll be against New Orleans.
"Actually, I was a little concerned," Jackson said. "He started out practice and felt like the knee was a little loose, a little different, but he proceeded and played fine."
As noted in our CBSSports.com Hornets-Lakers preview, Jackson should have the luxury of managing Bynum's minutes carefully, as New Orleans has an undersized and thin frontline that Pau Gasol has feasted on all season. Assuming everything goes as planned and LA continues its dominance of New Orleans, all the Lakers need from Bynum is for him to use the series as a tune-up for later tests.
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