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Looking at whether Kobe Bryant should guard Chris Paul for Game 3

April 22, 2011 |  9:00 am

The genesis on how the Lakers decided to match up Kobe Bryant on Chris Paul in Game 2 in the Lakers-Hornets first-round is up for debate.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson used the question as an opportunity to zing.

"We consulted the astrologists and the tarot-card people and that's how we came up with it," Jackson joked.

Bryant, meanwhile, used it as an opportunity to explain his dynamic with [Derek Fisher].

 "He and I talked about it. Fish is better chasing off screens and I'm better off the ball," Bryant said. "We have leeway to do that. [Phil] was a little bit reluctant, but we've been together for years. he trusts my decision making."

The result entailed Paul scoring 20 points and nine assists, a dropoff from the 33 points he scored in the Lakers' 109-100 Game 1 loss Sunday to New Orleans. The Lakers switched combinations on Paul, with options ranging from Fisher, Bryant, Ron Artest and Steve Blake, but the responsibility pointed most to Bryant. With exception to Paul making two buzzer-beating three-pointers before the second and third quarter, respectively, Bryant proved instrumental in limiting Paul's ability to direct the offense by shutting off the passing lanes and giving him little space to penetrate, an effort Jackson said made the Lakers "feisty." As Lakers forward Matt Barnes said of Bryant, "he cut off the head of their snake."

But will that strategy hold up for Game 3?

With Bryant conserving most of his energy defensively, he acted more as a distributor, scoring 11 points on only three-of-10 shooting. Jackson gave a good glimpse that Bryant likely won't play that role again, recalling a conversation during Thursday's practice where Bryant told him, "Don't worry. I'm going to take more than 10 shots the next game."

After initial reluctance, Bryant approached Jackson last year about guarding Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook in Game 5 after he had burned the Lakers with 72 points in transition in the first four games. He held Westbrook to 15 points on four of 13 shooting in Game 5 and vowed to guard him again in Game 6. As much as Bryant likes to score, it'd be best to stick with the same strategy at least in the beginning of the game. That will allow the Lakers to see who's able to thrive inside with touches, with Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom converting on those opportunities and Pau Gasol failing to do so. As much as it's risky sometimes if Bryant doesn't set the tone early, the series so far has shown it to be a defensive matchup than offensive prowess.

"I wanted to make sure the guys gained confidence in being aggressive," Bryant said. "It's not about the amount of shots you take. its about giving effort on both ends of the floor."

--Mark Medina

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