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Lakers' 98-80 Game 6 victory over New Orleans featured strong defensive effort

Lakers5_510 The Lakers' makeup doesn't make practice time ripe in preparing for the pick-and-roll offense no matter what they do.

Sure they can dissect film, mimic opposing team's tendencies and run pick-and-roll sequences until it's drilled into their heads. But part of the practice time also entails running the triangle offense, which operates without the traditional point guard and stresses off-ball movement and balanced spacing. Add the Lakers' veteran-laden roster, and it becomes the main area to try to exploit against them, a dicey scenario when they matched up with the New Orleans Hornets in the first round.

But if the Lakers' 98-80 Game 6 victory Thursday over New Orleans taught us anything besides the fact the defending champs survived their first-round series in six games and face the winner of Portland-Dallas in the West semifinals at Staples Center on Monday, it's that the matchup featured an evolution in how they guarded the pick-and-roll and eventually succeeded.

"It's been our weakness in the past," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson told reporters in New Orleans. "We learned a lot about it in the series and we got better."

That learning exercise reached its ending point in Game 6 where the Lakers largely depended on their defense to secure the victory and earn them three days of rest and practice time before the next series. The Lakers held Hornets guard Chris Paul to 10 points on four-for-nine shooting, 11 assists and five turnovers, a severe dropoff to the series average of 24.4 points on 55.9% shooting and the triple-double effort he posted in Game 4. The Lakers limited the Hornets to a 30-for-70 clip from the field (42.9%) and blocked six shots, including two each by Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. And they scored 18 points off 14 turnovers.

But it's not so much the stats that made the Lakers' defensive effort impressive so much as to how they played it.

In one first-quarter play, Hornets forward Aaron Gray set a high screen on Derek Fisher, but there Bynum stood in the lane to shut off Paul's baseline drive, Kobe Bryant inched over in case help was needed and Ron Artest stood inside the paint. So instead of driving into all that traffic, Paul redirected the offense. Fisher immediately went back to defending him before finding Willie Green on the far perimeter, but the Lakers demonstrated their strong defensive rotations once again. Bryant angled himself to give Green the baseline, noticing Lamar Odom was waiting for him to drive while Bynum stood ready in the paint, an appropriate presence considering the sequence ended in Bynum blocking the shot.

The effort remained so stingy that the Lakers' 40-34 halftime lead marked the lowest combined point total for the fewest points in the series. But that was OK. Without discrediting Bynum's dominance (18 points in eight-for-13 shooting and 12 rebounds), Odom's team play (14 points on five-for-10 shooting and eight rebounds) or Bryant's aggressiveness (overcoming a six-for-16 clip with a 10-for-10 mark from the stripe en route to a 24-point effort), but the Lakers secured the first-round series because of their defense, a mind-set that will be needed to win a third consecutive championship.

The reasons point to what plagued them in the regular season. Their 8-0 start featured the Lakers as a new version of the Phoenix Suns, leading the league in scoring and creating a belief they simply could outscore teams. That formula lasted for about a month before reality set in, with defenses playing tougher, fatigue kicking in and shooting percentage dropping. That soon prompted Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person and Jackson to tweak the team's defensive scheme, which emphasized funneling drivers into the lane so that the Lakers' frontline could shut them down in the paint. So it was only fitting on a night Bryant didn't shoot well from the field and Gasol was non existent in the first half, the Lakers relied on their defense.

That performance looked nothing like it did at the beginning of the series where the Lakers appeared so overly fixated with switching on Paul that Gasol guarded him one-on-one in three separate plays. Bryant's insistence to guard Paul in Game 2 helped "cut the head off of the snake" as Lakers reserve Matt Barnes had put it, but with Bryant then spraining his left ankle in Game 4, the Lakers could no longer rely on that strategy. Hence, Game 6 where the Lakers tightened the area for Paul to operate and force his teammates to carry the load. As the final seconds ticked away, Paul looked frustrated sitting on the bench.

"We got up and were up on every screen and roll," Bynum told KCAL-9's John Ireland in his courtside interview. "We didn't let Chris Paul come off and dictate too much and they didn't hit shots tonight."

The result: the Lakers move on to Round 2 with a stronger defensive foundation.

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at

Photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom draws a charging foul against Hornets power forward Carl Landry during Game 6 on Thursday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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Great defense, pounded the ball inside, and 25 of 26 free throws. Recipe for a championship. Well done, Lakers!

Wow this Portland-Mavericks game is exciting. I think Portland very well could come back....

BTW, Thanks for your patience with moderation/insta post. I'm still going to have it on moderation just so I don't lose control again. There may be times I put insta post but I prefer not to tell anyone just so trolls can't feel like it's their time to strike.

It's official: Lakers-Mavericks

Dallas vs LA
Dirk vs Kobe
Cuban vs Buss
Texas vs California
Steak vs Sushi
Beer vs Wine
Tornados vs Earthquakes

This series is going to be fun!

Fatty - Who will stand on his head, with his dog Spot, to beat any Texas team.

Congratulations Lakers!
On to the 2nd round vs Dallas!

I heard on Portland radio that Caron Butler may be ready to come back for the 2nd round.

Does anyone know if this is true?

Umm Charles Barkley just said that the Dallas Mavericks would upset the Lakers. Too bad he stuttered and then couldn't come up with a reason why

This will be an exciting series..Lakers vs Mavs....Lakers in 6....Lakers 3 peat and beyond...

Amazing all this – the Spurs barely hold on – Lakers are struggling. Magic out. I think a new age is dawning in the NBA – comments here:

WTG Lakers! Bring on the Mavs. LO and the Killer Bs are starting to come to life - Andrew Bynum is the difference maker - his presence transends his stats - he alters so many shots it's not even funny!
Can't wait for Round 2!

I WISH Portland had come back. Forcing a game 7, forcing Dallas expenditure of effort, and letting us rest more ...

Congrats Lakers, well done! Now to dipatch Dallas. My prediction Lakers in 6!
4 down, 12 to go for #17. Go Lakers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Good job. Get some rest and prepare well for Dallas.

Ummmm....I wanted this match up for the simple fact that the Lakers are yet to meet the Mavs in the playoffs in the Cuban era.

I would love to see some tears from MR LEGO head himself..

Bynum was good.....

Fisher just needs to be solid...I cant believe people that post on a Lakers blog pay DERICK FISHER out........Your not Laker fans...Just imposters....

The guy will have his jersey lifted to the rafters...

Watch the games and stop playing xbox

Congratulations Lakers Fans we made it to the second round

As a fan I'm a little like the Lakers. I wake-up around the playoffs, which makes me appreciate this report. You caught me up on why the Lakers were up and then down toward the beginning of the season. Appreciate the big-picture perspective you put this game into.

I am glad that we are getting the Mavs in the second round. Dirk will be much less physical with Pau than LaMarcus Aldridge would have been. Fisher will be matching up with someone closer to his age, although I can't say that Kidd has slowed down that much over the years. All in all, I really like our chances against this team. By the way, heres to hoping the Grizzlies knock out the only team in the west that would have home court advantage against the Lakers!

MM - Check this sentence again please

"Without discrediting Bynum's dominance (18 points in eight-for-13 shooting and 12 rebounds), Odom's team play (14 points on five-for-10 shooting and eight rebounds) or Bryant's aggressiveness (overcoming a six-for-16 clip with a 10-for-10 mark from the stripe en route to a 24-point effort), but the Lakers secured the first-round series because of their defense, a mind-set that will be needed to win a third consecutive championship"

Glad the tv analysts pointed out that Bynum was MVP of the series. The last time a Laker center was mentioned as MVP of the different playoff series, was 2004, and Kobe got so upset, he stopped passing the ball inside and we know how that season ended up.

yep, kobe wanted the lakers to lose, rather then see shaq get his 4th
MVP finals award. disgraceful.

Did any of you DFish haters(S Perkins and other morons) hear CP3's interview at the end of the game. He said he had to go up to Fish after the game and complement him on the way he played defense against him. Basically forcing him one way where the twin towers awaited...classic!

LongTimeLakerFan summed it up quite nicely below...OH SNAP!!!

S Perkins,

I'll tell you what else this particular "know nothing" knows.

Derek Fisher is the ALL TIME LEADING 3-point shooter in NBA finals.

Derek Fisher stole a game from San Antonio with .4 seconds left in 2004

Derek Fisher was the MVP of game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

So far, Derek Fisher is shooting 50% for the playoffs, and 62% on 3's this series. Note that that's a higher shooting percentage than Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, or Lamar Odom are shooting for the series.

If you don't know, you better ask somebody.

Posted by: LongTimeLakerFan | April 28, 2011 at 07:28 PM

NICE CLOSE OUT LAKE up for the Mav's and crybaby Cuban!

I haven't posted in a while but all the naysayers and trolls seem to have disappeared today. Why? Because they are scared and see that when the games really matter the men turn up the D and are on their way to #17. Notice how Ron is beating up his man (gotta love that dude). Fish is his usual playoff ready tough guy and clutch shot maker (he outplayed CP3 last night while the game was still in question). Pau is getting boards and blocking shots (in spite of his softness). Drew is playing at an all-star level in the paint (boards, putbacks, blocks and even a face up jumper - he'll be deadly if he can develop that in the off season). Kobe is Kobe (a fierce warrior injuries and all). The Bench is holding its own lead by LO (love the 9 man playoff rotation - no Luke). Yes, the men are putting their award winning game face on..."the most interesting team in the world". Stay thirsty Lakers.

I'm expecting a very competitive series. In my prediction post, I gave Dallas a slight edge because I have a sneaky feeling about them this year.

Posted by: Bay to LA | April 29, 2011 at 10:27 AM

Typical. Is your real name Chuck by any chance?

It's hardly "amazing" that the Spurs are almost knocked out. They had a low seed last year, and this season they clearly over-achieved and faded down the stretch. Duncan and Parker are done, and Manu is hurt.

On the other hand, it's clear that all the naysayers who dug the Lakers grave were equally wrong: either you have a short memory, or you've never watched a full basketball playoffs and seen eventual championship teams pushed to 6 or even 7 games in their first round matchup (e.g., '00 Lakers 3-2 over Sac, '08 Celtics 4-3 over Atlanta, and last year's Lakers 4-2 over OKC). The fact is, most playoff teams are there for a reason: they're good teams.

Likewise, I remember plenty of Laker teams that looked unstoppable in first-round sweeps (e.g., 1988-89 Lakers) who were later beaten by a better team (and injuries--Magic and Scott). So I hope Celtics fans are excited by their sweep of the Knicks, since it will make it that much sweeter when they eventually are exposed as too old and creaky.

For what it's worth, I think the Celts/Heat series will be very fun to watch, with the Heat barely squeaking by in 7. Then another tough series with the Bulls, also going 7 and ending with a Bulls win.

Lakers vs. OKC in a Western Finals match-up, with another 6-game win for the Lake show.

Finals: Lakers 4, Bulls 2. Three-peat and a sweet ride off in the sunset for P-Jack.

Good break down Medina,Love the substance and the chatty Kathy...



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