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Five things to watch in Game 5 of the Lakers-Hornets series

611258211. How will the Lakers respond to pressure? As much as I believe the Lakers play roulette in making things more competitive than necessary, the team's 2-2 tie with New Orleans entering Game 5 Tuesday at Staples Center isn't anything out of the norm. Consider that many of the Lakers' championship seasons featured playoff series that pushed L.A. to the brink of elimination.

That included the 2000 championship team, which won in five games against Sacramento in the first round and defeated Portland in seven games in the Western Conference Finals. The 2002 title team featured a seven-game West Finals series against the Kings that ended in the Lakers winning at Arco Arena. Remember that 2009 championship when the Lakers went all seven games in the Western Conference semifinals against Houston despite the Rockets having Yao Ming, Dikembe Mutumbo and Tracy McGrady on the injured list? Yeah, Ron Artest does, seeing the Lakers finally eliminate his Rockets en route to an NBA title. And it was only last season when the Lakers went six games in the first round against Oklahoma City, only to finish as defending champions.

"They seem to play better when they're in a desperate mode," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "There's no doubt about that. We've had times in the season where we do the job we're required to do."

The Lakers simply thrive in adverse situations. It's not a good attitude to have and the margin for error decreases every single season. The Lakers aren't at that point yet but Game 5 marks a time when it's safe to presume that the Lakers will bring fuller intensity. Seatgeek.com reports courtside seats are running as high as $1,069 and that tickets overall are averaging $210 a pop, while StubHub says the Lakers-Hornets game is the bestselling game of the week. So it's safe to presume the atmosphere will be more electric than normal. Besides, the Lakers are 26-7 in Game 5 when their best-of-seven series was tied at 2-2, and they even overcame two 3-2 deficits after losing Game 5, including the 2010 NBA Finals to Boston and the 2002 Western Conference Finals to Sacramento.

611258372. How will Kobe Bryant's ankle look? That's the main area of concern and will have the most significant impact on the game. Jackson expects Bryant will play but it's unpredictable how well, especially since Bryant's refusal to have an MRI and X-rays on his sprained left ankle makes it hard to gauge how that will limit Bryant on the floor.

"It' s a game-time thing, who knows?" Jackson said of Bryant, who had limited participation in Tuesday's morning shoot-around.

Given Bryant's amazing ability to play through nearly any injury, his teammates are correctly presuming No. 24 will be in full uniform. But the Lakers should prepare as if they're going to need to compensate for any limitations they might have.

The responsibility falls on everyone on the team, but forward Pau Gasol should be ready to assume the lead role. Given his deferential nature and overall inconsistency, it's hard to say whether he's up for the task.

"I think he'll play no matter what, regardless," Gasol said. "I'm not thinking about anything else. If there's an injury, guys will step up. I've led many of my teams so I wouldn't have a problem at all. But that's hypothetical."

3. The Lakers can't stop Chris Paul, but they can at least contain him.

It's likely that Bryant's health limitations won't allow him to solely concentrate on guarding Paul, much like the way he did in Game 2 where he held the Hornets' guard to 20 points on five-of-11 shooting and nine assists, a severe drop-off from the 33 points and 14 assists he posted in Game 1. So the Lakers have to compensate in minimizing his production another way.

As tempting as it is to say Derek Fisher simply needs to improve his quickness or that the Lakers need to match up Paul with Steve Blake, the most egregious problem points to the team's constant need to switch. That's resulted in Gasol and Andrew Bynum in separate instances guarding Paul one on one at the top of the key, a disastrous outcome waiting to happen. Instead, the Lakers should refuse to switch and funnel Paul out toward the basket so the Lakers' front line can block his shot. Jackson says Paul's production simply points to him being unstoppable at times, but the Lakers can surely minimize some of that.

"We're paying attention to Chris Paul and he's making big plays and will make big plays," Jackson said. "But those type of things, we're not going to worry about that. We're going to worry about the things we can do something about."

4. The Lakers need to stop production from Carl Landry and Trevor Ariza

Time and time again, Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons reiterated to his team that the Lakers need to force Landry and Ariza into being jumpshooters instead of allowing them to drive to the basket. The message didn't carry through, however, as Landry and Ariza combined for 35 points on 14-of-28 shooting.

Bryant's given Ariza too much space to drive baseline, while Gasol's given Landry too much wiggle room to establish a post presence. It may be necessary to match up Ron Artest on Ariza and Bynum on Landry, but the Lakers can collectively make sure they're not driving to the basket by communicating on rotations.

"It's like I'm the teacher and they're the teenager and they know it all until it happens," Cleamons said. "You don't want to say I told you so. We all want to win so I take the good and the bad and get off my soapbox and watch the film and show it to them. Hopefully they take it to heart."

5. The Lakers need an inside presence

Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano ran an interesting statistical analysis through NBA.com's Stats Cube that shows the Lakers are more defensively efficient when Bynum is on the floor and more offensively efficient when Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are on the floor. It's an interesting tradeoff the Lakers balance every night, but for the most part it nets a positive gain because of the cross-matches and size difference the Lakers present.

There's no reason the Lakers should be struggling against the Hornets, which features Aaron Gray, Landry and an absent David West. Part of the problem points to the fact that the Lakers didn't pass the ball enough inside as indicated by the combined 19 field-goal attempts between Bynum and Gasol. The Lakers getting outrebounded 39 to 32 and conceding 20 second-chance points, however, points to the front line's lack of aggressiveness.

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Top photo: Kobe Bryant is forced into an awkward shot, and a miss, by Hornets defenders Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor during Game 4 on Sunday night at New Orleans Arena. Bryant did not score in the first half and finished with 17 points in the 93-88 loss. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / April 24, 2011

Bottom photo: Bryant hobbles down the court after injuring his left ankle while playing defense on New Orleans' Willie Green in the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Sunday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / April 24, 2011

 
Comments () | Archives (27)

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The only thing I'm worried about is the fact that when Kobe is playing off of a bad ankle, he still tends to try and do too much.

Let's hope he is Kobe the facilitator for at least the first half so the other guys can get in the flow.

We Got This! I'm not worried - Lakers take control of this series TONIGHT!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4aob4zlhIk

would someone keep that midget chris paul off the boards? we can't let n.o. beat us on the boards and to loose balls! L.O. will show up tonight because khloe and lamar won't be airing on the E channel! haha, matt barnes is m.i.a. from the other night. other than that, let's kick some hornets ass! nihow from shanghai, p.r.c.

We need a double double out of Pau tonight

Oh Man... I love The "Lamar Anthem!" Definitely going to be circulating that one...

MM,

Wondered if there could be just a continuous Blog and all the Posts that we could click into at our convenience, rather than having to basically restart the Blog after every new Post?

As for the game tonight, just like San Antonio, perhaps Memphis is better and perhaps New Orleans is better than we are. I would think not, but things are as they are. Need a win tonight, although I would put it past us to lose and win the next two. Seems like we never do anything "nice and easy," we make everything "rough," but the results have worked out the last two seasons!

wow, just like that.

Drew made a mistake by guaranteeing on radio that Lakers will win tonight. That's a statement of fan/blogger not a player, don't put words into motivational tool for the Hornets that this was the assurance of the Giant Laker. Anyway, now that he has released, he might back it up with double efforts and less fouls.

I've one word for our team, win for our departed blogger, Rick F and for PJ's departure year.

PS.: Good idea, DJ. Continuous posting and the other one threading in a separate column, so posters will have a field of their own. That's two clicks, one for posting and the other one to read the thread of MM. Let an intern @ $8 per hour read and manage the posting side. I will miss Sonny Brokeback, he's a Kobe hater and No. 1 Kings cheerleader. Even if he acted as troll and a jerk sometimes, he left some memories to be cherished in this blog. The time difference from where he's blogging is 12 hours, and during wake up hours he relishes enjoyment in posting monkey business to rile all of us. You can go to the archives and read his postings during the Dark Years of the Lakers.

As soon as I hit post, I saw the ex-bandit. Welcome back Sonny B. Please behave, you're on bail.

If the Lakers somehow manage to lose tonight, the practice series is officially over...

but I have to believe the Lakers will pull this one out tonight, regardless of Kobe's ability (or inability)

Edwing Gueco

If you had read the supposed post by mr Belslow, the PSP is sure you would have a different opinion ... hehe

Thanks
PSP Intern

I will miss Sonny Brokeback, he's a Kobe hater and No. 1 Kings Queerleader. Even if he acted as troll and a jerk sometimes, he left some memories.

There, I fixed it for you...

It's a must win tonight(something we are very good at) but don't push it boys, your driving us crazy! GO LAKERS

bulletin board, schmulletin board.
it doesn't matter what NOLA says or does.
this is up to the Lakers.

I agree on what u said Mud, it is really up to the Lakers. They are the defending Champs, on their home court with HCA on the best of three and as 2nd seed. What else is needed there to stop the Hornets? Winning is all in the mind, if you will it, then u will get it. However, if u play girlie or dam-dam, you allow the opponents to steal this game.

LRob & MM,

After serving the blog for almost 5 years, this is what we got. Being hounded by trolls and haters alike teasing and tempting u to get into the edge. This is the price that we pay whether it's Jon K, LakerTom and others. MM, if you can't clean up your blog, we just sign off for good.

Anyway, came here to be with the Lakers and share some opinions. All these new handles, you know who they are and you know who to avoid.

Posted by: frmkt

^^^Oh Man... I love The "Lamar Anthem!" Definitely going to be circulating that one...^^^

I authored the Lamar Anthem about 3 years ago (when it was really relevant lol) and have added verses over the years.

Glad you appreciated it. I think others find it humorous but are too proud to admit it. It was done in fun and is not to be taken seriously.


No questions asked. It's on moderation until further notice.

Hey, have Mamba24 and LakerTom left the blog or what?? If yes - why, what happened???

The trolls would be a non issue if folks would ignore 'em and let the Lakers winning do the talking for us. Haven't you ever noticed how you can hear the crickets as a tumbleweed goes by whenever the Lakers win? They don't say crap. Only when they lose. In a way, we as Laker fans should feel flattered because the only reason that the trolls come around here in the first place is because the no-talent teams that they pull for are usually bounced out of the first round so they have to hate on the ton of success the Lakers enjoy. I mean really, anyone pulling for SAcremento must be depressed, right?

I read an article that Kobe has refused to take tests on his ankle.. Is it being heroic or just plain stubbornness??

WTF!! what if its a ligament tear or a fracture? :(

I think its better for Kobe to be sensible and sane than being a man of steel & ice or a hero.

We dont want a hero Kobe who can win us the 1st round of playoffs, we want a Kobe whose career can span few more years and bring couple more championships!!

Ruud van Nistelrooy -
if it's a sprain, there's a tear. if it's fractured, he won't be functional for long. if it hurts too much, he won't play. it's all pretty simple. it's win or end of season and then there'sll be plenty of time to fix it. by all accounts, there might not even be a season next year...

What I'm looking for is for the HOrnets to beat the Lakers. Then, I will be sad because the playoffs, really, won't be the same without them. So, what am I to do? Forget it, kick their butts Hornets, we've had enough of the whole kitt'n kabootle!

If we win tonight, let's keep Kobe here in L.A. while the rest fo the Lakers play game 6 in N.O.!! It will save the ankle two trips on a plane in case there is a game 7.

This team is capable of winning without Kobe and a victory in a close out game would do good for this teams morale.

just a thought...

dan

Lets hope finals co MVP Drew the beast is the difference maker tonight

We win tonight no matter how close, N.O. is done!

How should we respond to Kobe's wanton disregard for cautionary medicine? On the one hand, what he is doing is incredibly bad-ass. Kobe's opinion on the matter is likely something along the lines of "It doesn't matter what it is, I'm still going to play, so what's the point." His willingness to play through pain is already legendary, so perhaps this is just the next evolutionary step. He is going to ignore the injury no matter what, so how important is actually knowing what it is that he is ignoring? It also makes Kobe Bryant the closest thing possible to a real-life Jedi. He's pulling the old Jedi mind trick, except instead of tricking oblivious stormtroopers, he's attempting to pull it off on his own nervous system. With a wave of his hand and the air of authority, he's telling his ankle "These aren't the limitations you're looking for".

On the other hand, this could just as easily be seen as delusion instead of machismo. Who cares what relatively little risk is involved? Why risk it at all? What if Kobe actually has some major injury, and risks doing permanent and severe damage to himself by playing with it? Even if Kobe is willing to play with that risk, shouldn't he at least be knowledgeable about it so that he doesn't take unnecessary chances? Willingness to play through pain is one thing, but this is downright Quixotic. He's treating his injury like it's some kind of enchantment that must be defeated, instead of the normal behavior of ligaments which were made to do something they can't normally do.

Kobe the Ultimate Jedi (Obi Wan Konobe)!

really, would it make a diffence anyways if kobe had damage? he'd play anyways. besides, remember when he hurt his ankle in the nba finals against indiana? remember shaq carrying kobe into the arena? kobe's foot would have to be amputated for him not to play!


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