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Things to watch in Lakers-Hornets matchup

Pau-gasol 1. How will the Hornets respond to the pressure? The Lakers enter Game 4 of their first-round matchup with the Hornets on Sunday enjoying a 2-1 lead, and suddenly New Orleans Coach Monty Williams is calling it a "must win." There's plenty of reason for the Hornets to feel that way. Phil Jackson's teams are 54-1 once they take a lead in a playoff series. The Lakers appear more serious in playing playoff basketball than they did last week when they lost Game 1. And the Hornets lack playoff experience, with the likes of Marco Belinelli, Emeka Okafor and Jarrett Jack making their first appearances in the postseason.

Clearly, the Hornets don't have the same talent and resiliency to handle such adversity, but that's been the theme for the Hornets all season. The NBA purchased the team from owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest, who were in financial trouble, in December. Chris Paul's future with the team before the season remained in question, highlighted by his reported comments at Carmelo Anthony's wedding that he'd like to team up with him and Amare Stoudemire. The Hornets played through plenty of pendulum swings, including a 12-1 start to the season and a 4-8 stretch in February. And they've had to compete in the playoffs without the services of David West, who suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury with nine games remaining. Given the fact that New Orleans has overachieved, the Lakers shouldn't expect the Hornets to just give up now.

That's why the Lakers' collective hunger must stay high. It's almost inconceivable that the Lakers would lose a first-round series to New Orleans, but, as I outlined yesterday, there's no reason for them to make the path to three-peat harder than necessary. Given the Hornets' statistically low offensive production (94.9 points per game), methodical pace, and 19th-ranked offensive efficiency, the Lakers' storming out to a quick start would give them a stranglehold on Game 4.

2. How will Paul's injured left thumb affect his play? He's telling reporters that he will suit up for Game 4 and that nothing is wrong with his thumb, but it's surely a factor the Lakers can exploit. The Hornets won Game 1 largely on the heels of Paul's 33 points on 11-of-18 shooting and 14 assists. But Bryant's defense on Paul in Game 2 and the Lakers' improved defense in Game 3 in shutting off the driving lanes and avoiding the temptation to switch on pick-and-rolls has helped limit New Orleans' speedy playmaker. 

Considering the possibility that Paul's thumb could affect his play, the Hornets' supporting cast may need to produce more. Former Laker forward Trevor Ariza has scored in double digits in Games 2 and 3, but the Hornets have lacked the impressive outside shooting they enjoyed in Game 1. Belinelli went only two-of-eight from the field and one-of-seven from three-point range in Game 3, while Willie Green and Jarrett Jack combined for a one-of-10 clip. Surely part of this speaks to the Lakers' better execution on defending pick-and-rolls, but the possibility that Paul passes off more means the Lakers need to be sure they close out on the perimeter. 

3. Will the Lakers' front line use its size advantage? Let me make things clear. Pau Gasol is normally one of the team's most efficient and consistent players, but his occasional bad stretches stand out glaringly and sometimes take a while for him to shake off. That's why I was curious when I outlined in a post how he'd respond with his 17-point, 10-rebound effort the next game in Game 4. Andrew Bynum has also been reliable in Games 2 and 3, but he experienced another incident in the latter game where it appeared he almost suffered another injury. The Lakers have indicated Bynum is ready to go in Game 4, a good sign if they are going to take advantage of their height, which resulted in the Lakers getting 17 second-chance points and grabbing 14 offensive rebounds.

-- Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol, who scored 17 points on seven-of-13 shooting in the 100-86 Game 3 victory, scores over Hornets center Emeka Okafor and forward Trevor Ariza on Friday night at New Orleans Arena. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
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Chris Paul thumb injury is not as bad as he is making it out to be. That guy is one of the top floppest in the league. I hope the Lakers do not buy into this buul. And MM please get off Gasol's case.

First and foremost, let me greet everyone Happy Easter.

Game 3 was really a defining moment to the Lakers, many are saying that the defending Champs are again the team to beat. This is similar to ranking of teams during the playoffs, it all boils down on + or - on PER or whatever impressions of pundits. This sudden resurgence of Laker stock is because of Drew, Pau, LO, Artest on defense and Kobe as a fascilitator. All teams have shown some vulnerabilities lately, Dallas andSpurs are on a meltdown. Lephrechauns just swept the miserable Knicks, Hawks are on the verge of upsetting the Magic as well. Both teams will have their true in the 2nd round, who do you want to win Celtics vs Heat and the other set Bulls vs. Hawks.

Go Lakers. just stay on course we got this.

@Lew, jefe & LRob...

Thanks for the excellent selections to help us remember what today is all about.

I think the biggest key for the Lakers is to limit the unexpected points from NO's role players. In the game that the Hornets won, their supporting cast was huge. If the Lakers limit the bench scoring from the Hornets, they should be fine.

GO LAKERS!!!
17 IN '11!!!

this was written:

Actually Kobe couldn't guard Pierce who was named finals mvp by the way and kobe couldn't score against Pierce or Posey who shut him down. Similar to when Prince shut down Kobe in the 2004 finals. Yet yall want compare kobe to jordan who no man or team has ever shut down?

Posted by: island priest | April 24, 2011 at 01:46 PM


http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playbyplay?gameId=280605002

snippet:
5:01 Vladimir Radmanovic personal foul (Paul Pierce draws the foul)
11:15 Vladimir Radmanovic shooting foul (Paul Pierce draws the foul) qtr 3

One could surmise that Paul Pierce [ SF ] was being guarded at least some of
the time by Vladamir Radmonivic [ SF ]

Oddly enough, if one believes that the small forwards were guarding each
other since Kobe was spending some time guarding Rajon Rondo &
D-Fish is on Ray allen, one can put a lot of Pierce's points on Vladamir
Radmonivic.

This would then support the Lakers trading Vlad and picking up Ariza ... since
they needed a defensive minded SF and from Mitch's own words LO wasn't
that guy.

Boston swept the Knicks, in what was no surprise. Boston will not see that many uncontested shots ever again. The Knicks played absolutely no defense in the 2 games in New York. Looks like both teams involved in the Melo-drama might get swept, so I guess the trade is a push at this point in time.

4. Rinse. Repeat. Landry will take again Gasol to the CLEANERS.

5. Second Cycle. Rinse. Repeat. Landry will take LO to the CLEANERS.

6. 7. 8. Kobe needs to have a 40+ game. Killing them softly in the Big Easy. Game PLAN.

Lakers 3-1

--------------------------

P.S. - 3. Will the Lakers' front line use its size advantage?

Andrew Bynum … experienced another incident in the latter game where it appeared he almost suffered another injury. Tic Toc, Tic, Toc …

-------------------------

P.S.2 - "One big shot deserves another" becomes "One broken finger deserves another" (I'm not wishing, it already happen - CP3 is a little Punk. The NBA where karma happens … Not even David Stern can fix that. But he can suck his OWN thumb) :-)

Go Lakers. Plenty of rest until Dallas and 'ortland figure it out.

one can put a lot of Pierce's points on Vladamir
Radmonivic.
Posted by: hobbitmage | April 24, 2011 at 03:29 PM

did you forgot LUUUUUUUUUUUKE?

HAVING SAID THAT, this appears to be a Hornets team that is wearing down from our length and talent in the front court and the presence of Kobe Bryant and our seasoned role players.

Posted by: KobeMVP888 | April 24, 2011 at 12:35 PM

i saw the same thing... over a 7 game series the length just takes a toll.. i predict lakers win big and go for the knockout blow and completely demoralize the hornest tonight (knocking on wood) last game was a great sign of that.. lakers kept hornets at bay with about 10 pt lead entire game and hornets finally looked defeated.. i also keep expecting a big breakout game from pau.. landry is playing out of his mind and that can only last so long.. eventually pau will punk landry and show him who the real all-star is... i mean we're talkin bout carl freakin landry here.

First of all, happy Easter. Hopefully the out one tonight won't be in line with other Sunday games...

Second, we have seen Ariza twice in the postseason since he was swapped for Artest. It seems that only once in each series did he make us miss him. Well the jury is still out for this series, but one out of three games doesn't instill confidence. But, in his defense he's been his teams' number two option due to injury, and he can't be that guy o. A consisten basis -- even if his ego (and his agent) says otherwise. He'd have to outpost Pau on a nightly basis. He can't even outpost Bynum or LO nightly (our two-headed number three option). He can outpost Artest, but hasn't proven to be nearly as consistent, though he can sometimes be more fantastic.

I feel sorry for him because his agent royally screwed him, and subsequently resurrected Artest. I don't think Ariza appreciates his agent working on the behalf of another player. But, there you have it.

Sux.

--FEARless

this time around i can actually say with some conviction that i agree with MM on something... whether b2b game from stinkers from pau is a fluke or not calling him out is completely justifiable.. the playoffs have already started folks.. even one bad game and no one should be immune from cricitism.. especially NOT b2b games from our number 2 scorer with consecutive 8 pt stinkers... and esp not against carl freakin landry.

This was written:

did you forgot LUUUUUUUUUUUKE?

Posted by: The Bulimic 1/2 Empty Glass | April 24, 2011 at 03:41 PM


of course I didn't. However, let's keep the main things the main things.

PP ate Vlad like he was box of chicken McNuggets.

Here's the conundrum with Andrew Bynum. If his knee health is as fragile as many seem to believe, then his trade value is much lower than those same folks seem to believe. The idea that you could trade a guy who is on the verge of being the next Greg Oden or Yao Ming for players of the caliber of Dwight Howard or Chris Paul is kind of ridiculous. If the Lakers are peddling damaged goods, they won't get a franchise player in return. That is simply unrealistic.


I don't know the long-term prognosis on Andrew's knee. I know he has been hurt before. I know he gets scared when he tweaks it now. I know he can play very effectively on it in between. I don't know what the future holds for it.


But I think the best case for the Lakers is that Drew can stay healthy. If they look to trade him the rest of the league will be sceptical and the returns on that trade may be disappointing.


And when he is playing well, Drew is a very special player.

@Lakertom... common big fella we need you. please come back and join us for what will be a historic 3peat run (knocking on wood).. i think everyone should be entitled to one "i'm leaving this blog" outburst per year and if you want to use yours up now you we wont fault you.. but just like all those times you called out larry and marina and kenny to come back we are imploring you tom.. and better be soon or i will will have to impose an "i'm not posting" strike 0n myself till your back.. dont try me :-)

As much as folks seem to want to think the Lakers have some moral defect that led them to lose game 1 and to win game 2 by less than 20, all it takes is a look around to see THIS IS PLAYOFF BASKETBALL. Look at the West. The # seed is DOWN 2-1. The #3 seed is TIED 2-2.


Indiana has pushed Chicago. Atlanta is ahead of Orlando. The Knicks were putting pressure on the Celts before Billups went down and Amare got banged up.


Look, I want the Lakers to sweep every series and win every game by 20, if only for my heart health. But it's not easy out there, man. My team is up 2-1 and will probably win this series in 5 or 6. I'm good with that.

I was so excited to post how awesome Bynum was Friday and never got around to it because I've been busy this weekend. I quickly read some post over the past 3 days and I love the comedy. Talking about trading Bynum instead of talking about his play on Friday? I don't find it offensive or disrespectful as much as I find it ignorant and ridicules.

When Drew is healthy and humimg this team can be historically good. Thankfully this team also has some depth to compensate for Bynum's long absences.

It was PJ who said last year, you can't build a team around a part time player and that's our quandry. You can not count on him for a full season, and with the playoffs? We don't know how far he can go.

Do you relevate him to a Yao Ming status and use him sparingly like 28 mpg to prolong his season and career? Would that even work with his type of knee problem?

I was surprised to hear him say, he was hopeful he could get through this round healthy to play in the next series. He's not that confident either, I guess.

If the Lakers keep him for the long run, which I think they will. They would need some insurance at that position, like a Theo Ratliff type player, someone with experience, not a DJ MBenga type.

But do you build around him as our future superstar? I don't think so, because you will be disappointed.

Now, for those who can remember Wilt? I'm seeing some of those same rebounding qualities in Drew. He thinks those boards are his and so does the other teams rebounders. He's becoming intimidating in that aspect, very nice to see him develope that skill, very nice.

Oh, and Go Lakers!

Hmmm... Swap the term outpost for outplay in my post and it makes so much more sense. Curse the iPod autocorrect!

Mr. Hobbitmage

If Vlad was chicken nuggets, what would that make Luke?

Thanks
PSP Intern

Trade Bynum right now...today...while his knee is still intact....trade Kobe too...

Yes...I said it.....Bynum and Kobe for.....The Lakers have not improved much from last year, while the rest of the league has caught up or gotten better...

In fact trade Fisher, Bynum, and Kobe in a mega deal for some real value...Come on Mitch ...man up....

What to expect in tonights game?

I think the x' and o's have been played it. Its what's in the head that counts now?

A win tonight and we knock them out on Tuesday. But, this Lakers team has head problems, serious head problems. If they are overly confident, they get humbled very easily by even the worst teams in the league.

NOH has their backs to the wall. Game 4's around the NBA has the home team fighting to the end. I see the NOH doing the same as everyone else. I would love to see the Lakers put the foot to the pedal and never let up, like game 3. But will they? I honestly don't know what to expect.............

I think it's extremely critical the Lakers swing the first punch and simply don't let New Orleans feel they even have a chance. Whether they win by using their size advantage, Kobe goes on a scoring spree or they rely on defensive stops, it doesn't matter how the Lakers win so much as they set the tone early.

Dude, Mitch... Trade Bynum, Kobe, Pau, Artesticles, Fisher, Odom. They have no value, but trade them for "some real value."
Lets trade the whole team of back to back champions, three straight finals, come on lets do it. Lets trade them for a bunch of 2nd round draft picks and most importantly that budda12ax7 guy

The facts on Landry vs. Pau last game...Landry tallied 23pts but only 2 of them were against Pau.

Here's a breakdown of Landry points...
He scored 6 hoops...(6 of 12)

1. a runner on Pau
2. Two and 1's vs. LO
3. A baseline reverse on AB (no one was really guarding him) on a nifty feed from Trevor.
4. A ferocious dunk btw LO and AB
5. A midrange jumper vs. LO

He scored 11 fts (11-12)

1 foul by AB, (2-2)
4 fouls by LO, (6-6)
2 fouls by Ron (3-4)

Happy Easter everyone,
I just got back from a trip to the Bahamas which is my home land,and couldn't catch the Laker game 3 victory over there on their cable tv.Which hurt badly,every other game on except my beloved Lakers.None the less i'm happy to hear the Lakers won, and now i'm back in time and expect the same another Laker win.

Go Lakers!

Wow, Orlando has forgotten how to score. It doesn't look too good for Superman's team.

This ORL-Hawks series is unwatchable

Tom Daniels is absolutely correct - the status of Bynum's knees is no secret to the rest of the league - why do all the pro-trading-Bynum people all think we can get a Dwight Howard or a Chris Paul out of a potential deal?
More to the point, why even talk about trying? Why not revel in his youth and how great a player he's not only been for the Lakers, but in terms of the overall play for a guy his size?
The Lakers are the only team that is literally and wholly entitled to reap the full benefit of Andrew Bynum's unique skill sets.
Why would anyone even want to think about seeing Bynum do the things he does for another team?
Is not the rotation of Bynum/Gasol/Odom the ONE THING that gives the Lakers the advantage over every other team in the league - has this not been a truism for as long as the Lakers have been winning championships...namely over these last two seasons???
It's not like it's not working...

This ORL-Hawks series is unwatchable

Posted by: Mark Medina | April 24, 2011 at 05:44 PM

I'll second that! The only series I haven't really watched.

If Vlad was chicken nuggets, what would that make Luke? - PSP

~~a quarter of peanut you add on Strawberry Sundae. lol!

Nite Game, every one should be ready to go!! Hopefully we won't have to wear those unlucky whites!! Go Lakers, win it in LA!!
@LakerTom.....We're waiting!! :( In memory of Mamba24, Jimmy didn't get his Shimmy on...Love it when they lose!!!!

PSP,

Luke was rice pudding to Vlad's Chicken McNuggets

I know its an away game, but I'm wearing my Sunday whites because its Easter and I wore them the last game which they won.

AndTheJellosJigglin is really a Clippers fan............

Trade them now.....


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