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Lakers aren't used to seeing the New Orleans Hornets struggle

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It was only two seasons ago that the Lakers and New Orleans Hornets were competing for supremacy in the Western Conference. This season, any standings update now involves the Lakers (54-19), the Dallas Mavericks (48-25), Denver Nuggets (48-26) and Utah Jazz (48-26) fighting for the top spot in the West. Meanwhile, the Hornets (34-40) were officially eliminated from playoff contention for the first time in three years after their 112-101 loss Saturday to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Suddenly, the Lakers have to replicate the same urgency against New Orleans Monday night as they would have last season. It's tempting to look ahead to the Lakers' game Wednesday against Atlanta (47-26) in their final contest of a five-game trip, but the Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has set out for the team to win at least 60 games before the end of the regular season. With nine games remaining, that means the Lakers must go 6-3.

Team: New Orleans Hornets (34-40)

When: Monday, 5 PDT (KCAL-9)

Record vs. Hornets this season: 2-0

Matchup history: Even without forward Pau Gasol (strained right hamstring) and center Andrew Bynum (strained elbow and sore triceps in his right arm), the Lakers coasted to a 104-88 victory Nov. 8 against New Orleans. And it didn't even require a huge effort from Kobe Bryant, who put up 28 points. That's good news for the Lakers this time around, considering Bynum remains out of the lineup because of a strained left Achilles' tendon and Bryant has averaged only 14 points on 44% in his last two games. As an added bonus, Gasol is healthy and is coming off a season-high 30-point performance against Houston. The Lakers' first game against New Orleans also featured the Lakers providing bench support (46 points, including 12 from D.J. Mbenga), meaning Monday night's game would be a good opportunity to establish more consistency. Unfortunately, it's hard to predict what the Lakers bench will do. In the Lakers' 110-99 victory Dec. 1 against the Hornets, the Lakers' reserves allowed New Orleans to chop a 21-point lead to 10 with 1:50 remaining in the game. Sounds oddly familiar to the Lakers' recent game against Washington in which the bench allowed the Wizards to come back from a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit. Nonetheless, the Lakers knew the result as early as halftime when they outscored New Orleans, 31-15.

Outlook: All signs point to a Lakers win tonight. New Orleans has lost five of its last six games, Hornets guard Chris Paul has only played three games since missing 25 because of torn cartilage in his left knee and New Orleans could feel discouraged from even trying considering it just was officially eliminated from having at least a mathematical chance from the postseason. Even if New Orleans shows an honest effort, the team has already made a decision that indicates it's building toward the future beyond this season. Hornets rookie guard Marcus Thornton will start at the two with the unenviable task of guarding Bryant, a move that speaks to the team's confidence level about Thornton's potential. Meanwhile, the Lakers have a chance to prove they really mean it when they say they want to play their best basketball regardless of the opponent. It's something the team has struggled to grasp as its hunger level and its want to pace itself for the playoffs has been severely tested with good-enough-to-get-by wins against Philadelphia, Indiana, Toronto, Golden State, Minnesota, Washington and Houston.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul drives between Lakers' Sasha Vujacic, left, and Pau Gasol. Credit: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

 
Comments () | Archives (14)

The comments to this entry are closed.

"Even if New Orleans shows an honest effort Mark Medina, the team has already made a decision that indicates it's building toward the future beyond this season."

Huh?

Did you mean "even if New Orleans shows an honest Mark Medina effort?"

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!!

Jon K - Lol thanks for the catch. I took it out.

MM

medina, you're right, this should be a good night for the bench to establish consistency so mbenga should be given ample time to play tonight.

MM-
there is often a virus(or similar malware) on the blog homepage these days. it's javascript, probably an anvertiser...

err...ADvertiser


I think NO made a scapegoat outta Byron Scott and I think they've suffered as a result, injuries not withstanding.

Zaira, reading your posts is an absolute delight...only wish they were more frequent.

LakerTom, in response to your call to start LO at PG, here's the lineup I'd like for PJ to consider(if he hasn't already) primarily for defensive purposes. I believe this lineup would be a truly formidable one defensively and should eliminate concerns about defending opposing PGs...let me know what ya think.

Drew at C
Pau at PF
LO at SF
RonRon at SG
Black Mamba at PG

See y'all on the livechat

By the way, "objectivity" and Lakeraholicism are not mutually exclusive.

One can really love steak and still have the discernment to objectively discriminate between really good and not-so-great steak.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!!

Posted by: Jon K. | March 29, 2010 at 12:24 PM

Yes they are mutually exclusive !!! Just read this blog !!!!

LakerTom, in response to your call to start LO at PG, here's the lineup I'd like for PJ to consider(if he hasn't already) primarily for defensive purposes. I believe this lineup would be a truly formidable one defensively and should eliminate concerns about defending opposing PGs...let me know what ya think.

Drew at C
Pau at PF
LO at SF
RonRon at SG
Black Mamba at PG

See y'all on the livechat

Posted by: G in DC | March 29, 2010 at 04:12 PM
------------------------------------------------------

Hobbitmage,

Please Please explain why we don't use this lineup? I would say but 1) It gets tiring for people to keep clamoring for that lineup and 2) I'll let you have the pleasure hehe.

Jon K - To extend your metaphor, steak is actually basketball. A specific steak would be similar to the Lakers. So yes I am a fan of steak, or basketball. But it's my job to be open to all steaks and critique them objectively, and not just one specific kind of steak to specific customers who only prefer that kind of steak

MM

Well they already laid an egg in OKC, so I don't see another one on the way. Atlanta will be tough though.

I have an awesome solution about how to keep these small quick little PG's out of the paint, its pretty simple actually so simple infact is has been done for years in the NBA...you just get your center to throw a good clean hard foul at the little guy when he gets into places he shouldn't.
I'm not saying play dirty just a good hard foul that would make him think twice about driving the lane.

Problem -->PG likes to drive paint = Good Hard Foul<--solution

el guap - EXCELLENT suggestion. I'm also a fan of the throwdown to the floor after the sashay to the paint.

This is what they need to do if they want to stop Cleveland, the first time lebrick waltzes into the lane, we throw a Kurt Rambis at him . But the NBA wont allow superstars to get mugged except the back sheep, or should i say black mamba.

I Second and third that El guapo!!!

MM-
HTML/Crypted.Gen in file .../eventdetails_232743[i].js
this is NOT what the Times wants to propagate.


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