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Lakers' 100-86 Game 3 victory over New Orleans Hornets showed they were in playoff form

61092544With everyone circled around him and granting full attention, Lakers guard Derek Fisher swiftly moved his hands and delivered an impassioned speech.

The bullet points from his discussion during a timeout Friday night covered typical items that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant ticked off to ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox, saying, "He talked about execution and minimizing mistakes and playing with the type of intensity and sense of urgency we know how to play with."

Those are all stock answers, but the Lakers lived up to that mantra in various ways and provided myriad  examples of how they suddenly looked like a playoff team in their 100-86 Game 3 victory against Hornets in New Orleans.

The significance goes beyond the practical implications of the Lakers' taking a 2-1 series lead and reclaiming home-court advantage. They mostly took care of any and all issues that had plagued them earlier in the series.

1. Bryant returns to scorer mode. After he gave up his scoring in favor of guarding Chris Paul and playing facilitator in Game 2, Bryant assumed his normal role and scored 30 points on 10-for-20 shooting, the 80th time he's scored at least 30 points in a playoff game, trailing only Michael Jordan's 109. The reasons for diminishing his role were twofold -- wanting to throw an adjustment at Paul and hoping his constant passing would jump-start a struggling front line. But Bryant switched roles, since trying to do both would sap his energy level. Bryant's never-ending aggressiveness in setting a tone offensively benefits the Lakers so long as it remains in the context of the offense and his teammates match that aggressiveness, both key variables that help prevent teams from solely fixating on limiting Bryant. But with Bryant enjoying the supporting cast around him, there was very little the Hornets could do to stop him.

2. Pau Gasol improves his shot. It appeared that his earlier struggles in the first two games would continue. But hitting a three-pointer, of all things, and a thunderous dunk off an offensive rebound that wound up not counting because of Carl Landry's foul seemed to ignite his aggressiveness. Gasol's 17 points on seven-for-13 shooting and 10 rebounds marked a big improvement from the four-for-19 shooting in Games 1 and 2 -- but his performance doesn't just serve as a turning point because of his improved shooting mark. He made that happen because he appeared more inclined to strike back when Landry and Aaron Gray put pressure on him. For most of the first half, he settled for tepid mid-range jumpers with no success. The aforementioned dunk seemed to give him confidence that he lacked earlier in the game and earlier in the  series.

3. Consistent ball movement made the Lakers unstoppable. There were countless sequences that epitomized the Lakers' offensive fluidity. In the second quarter, Lamar Odom (13 points, nine rebounds) threw a bullet entry pass to Andrew Bynum (14 points, 11 rebounds), who tried converting over a double team. Though his shot hit off the rim, Lakers reserve forward Matt Barnes snuck in and slammed one home off the putback. Bynum returned the favor off Barnes' missed three-pointer moments later, grabbing a rebound, dribbling once and then pulling back for a left-handed hook that gave the Lakers a 38-27 lead. And when Ron Artest missed a fall-away jumper, Gasol grabbed the board and one-timed the ball to Bryant, who quickly drove in and finished with a bank shot.

Plenty of give-and-go sequences also kept the Hornets' defense honest. Gasol's give-and-go to Shannon Brown gave him a high-percentage shot inside. Bynum and Odom shared equal duties setting each other up. And one give-and-go between Gasol and  Artest (nine points, four-for-eight shooting) prompted him to flex his biceps.

4. Bynum has a mild scare. As soon as Bynum appears about to turn a corner in his development, injuries happen. It's a routine Lakers fans are accustomed to and still feel cautious optimism as he continues to show how he's becoming the dominant center the Lakers hoped he'd be. Bynum had one of those moments in Game 3 when his knee buckled under him after stepping on Landry's foot. Bynum remained in the game, but most of his production would come in the first half where he finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. In the second half, Bynum recorded only two rebounds.

5. The Lakers improved their defense. The stat line will read that Paul finished with 22 points on nine-for-13 shooting, but Fisher and the team's front line should feel satisfied with how they defended him. Though Paul finished with eight assists, the Lakers also forced him to commit five turnovers, a sure sign that Paul had little supporting cast around him.

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant changes direction while driving against New Orleans forward Trevor Ariza in the first half Friday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / April 22, 2011.

 
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the spaniard is back!

All is right.

Tonight is the beginning.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

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

GO LAKERS!!!!

What a great game, love that Paul had 4pts in the second half which only proves that we went up in guarding him. We were on fire behind the 3pt line and great inside the paint too. Obviously we still have long way to go if we are going to threepeat again, but I like what im seeing.

"Bryant's never-ending aggressiveness in setting a tone offensively benefits the Lakers so long as it remains in the context of the offense..."
MM

_______

In my opinion, that was the key to Kobe's success this evening. He was as close to perfect as can be because he played within the "context of the offense" and "the supporting cast" was firing on all cylinders. Great win and it's fair to say that this series is "officially" over. Lakers in 6.

Scary moment when Bynum went down - again. Let's hope is knee will respond to treatment and that he's ready to go on Sunday.

Watch out, Pau Gasol is back. When he's dominating the post mixing with finesse, it is always an easy win for the Lakers. LO was also great. He's beginning to believe that he is a superstar with consistency.

Memo to Ariza: You are in a wrong team because of your stupid agent. Had u intervened on that sad day I think you're now on the way to three rings. With the NOLA, you worked doubly hard, still lose. What a bummer of an ex bruin fooled by a greedy agent!

Memo to Chris Paul: Don't imitate Ariza, if you need a ring plus full honors from Hollywood studios as the next great PG royale, then join the Lakers next season. If you wanna add another headache year, sign up again with Hornets or go to Knicks and rot with Melo and Amare.

Memo to DJ Mbenga: We love u DJ but u need a job so stay with Hornets.

Nice win tonight. These Lakers are right on schedule. The Lakers are making the neccessary adjustments and improving every game. PJ has them peeking at the right time. Kobe is finding the right balance of scoring and facilitating. Pau is regaining his confidence and his championship form. Drew is growing into a dominant center, offensively and defensivelt. Fish is a respected leader and his influence on this club will never show up on a stat sheet (did you see that huddle?). Artest is acting like he has been here before, because he has, and is showing a consistency on offernse to go with his lock down defense. LO is our all purpose secret weapon and seems dialed in. Throw in the killer Bs playing decent, not great but we dont need them great and it all adds up to another championship run. I like what Im seeing. Adjustments and improvement. Lakers in 6! 2 down 14 to go for #17! Go Lakers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nice game from the whole team, but as Kobe said a couple of weeks ago..."This is a weird Team", I want to see MORE of this type of basketball (More consistant)before I get really excited. 2nd. round will be true test for the Purple & Gold, not to mention the Thunder. Lets Go! Lakers!!!

There is no reason for the Lakers to lose any more game in this series. Injury can happen at any moment, and that's why the Lakers should finish up the series asap and be ready for the next round

It looks like Ratliff is in and T. Johnson is out on the "active" roster. I think Ratliff(= Smith) is in just because he is a veteran, but at this point TJ is much more valuable and plays better than either Smith or Ratliff.

A Pau's 3-point shot and that says it was a special night...

What i can say and what i can recalled Phil Jackson saying it that the tactical astuteness of the Laker game or the triangle offence is base on reads and reacting to the defence,reacting to what the other team defence gives you.Thats the Laker game thats why sometimes this team may start very slow because its takes time to read the other team in games.So with these reactions the Lakers can adjust to suit the specific game plan of the respective opponent.On the issue with Paul Gasol we have to remember that during the regular season he had to log plenty minutes when Bynum was out injured.So with this we can say that he was going to be fatigued.But as the playoff continues he will some day shine,expect anyone of the Laker to come up big during specific games whether it be Gasol,Lamar,Kobe and Dfish even Ron Ron,thats the way Phil Jackson teams are and also the triangle offence can present such plays

I liked what I saw. Good game from all concerned. Game 3 was a step up from Game 2, and I hope the team performance and will take yet another step up in Game 4 Sunday. No backsliding now; take care of business in Games 5 and 6 to EARN a little time off before the next round. Keep building the momentum; you will need it in Round 2 and beyond if you want a 3-peat. The other teams aren't just going to hand the championship to you; you will have to fight for it. The last two games you guys have made a good start. Keep it up.

lakers in game 5.
next...dallas..
lakers in 5
next...okc...
lakers in 6
next..heat...
lakers in 6


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