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Top five stories in Lakers-Hornets series

photo: The Lakers huddle before entering the court at New Orleans Arena on Sunday night before Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Hornets. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times Soon enough, we'll be getting into the inevitable back and forth between Phil Jackson and Mark Cuban, see if Matt Barnes has anything to say to Jason Terry's argument that Barnes is actually soft, and if there really are any memorable performances in the Lakers-Mavericks matchup, a playoff pairing not seen since the 1988 Western Conference semifinals. 

But that doesn't mean I'm moving past the Lakers-Hornets first-round series just yet. There's plenty to analyze regarding individual performances and series-wide trends. Below the jump are what I consider the top five stories surrounding the series. 

1. Kobe Bryant playing through a sprained left ankle. That in itself isn't surprising. What was surprising was Bryant's refusal to get an MRI or X-rays, considering his obsession for knowing every single detail about his body so he can make the necessary adjustments. But Bryant's thinking pointed to his concern that it would take too much time out of his day.

Regardless of whether you think he is taking a huge risk or should never be questioned about his injuries, his 19-point performance in Game 5 was the highlight of the series. It wasn't just him taking the court that was impressive. It wasn't that after a scoreless first quarter, he posterized Emeka Okafor in the second quarter and performed a left-handed slam over Carl Landry in the third. It provided the perfect visual for Bryant's dominance despite injuries, and it served as a great turning point in the game. 

2. Bryant guarding Chris Paul in Game 2. This proved to be the first adjustment the Lakers made during the series. Paul lighted up the Lakers in Game 1 with 33 points on 11-of-18 shooting and 14 assists. Derek Fisher isn't absolved from blame in not being able to keep up with the speedy guards, but the lapses also pointed to the Lakers' fixation on switching, even if if left Pau Gasol guarding him one-on-one in three separate plays. Bryant guarding Paul helped keep Bryant productive despite a poor shooting night and it forced Paul into tighter spaces as he drove because the Lakers' improved rotation and Bryant's individual defense limited Paul to 20 points on five-of-11 shooting and nine assists. 

3. Andrew Bynum made it out of the first round healthy. Amid his consistency during the All-Star break, Bynum and the rest of the team held a collective breath simply because they didn't want to get their hopes up in case Bynum suffered another injury. Bynum even went so far to say that he needs to make it out of the first round without an injury before believing he's turned a corner. Well, now he has. Bynum averaged 15.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and didn't cause anyone to get anxious during a fall. During the last part of the regular season there were a few moments Bynum collided knees, with one of them causing a bone bruise. That's why the Lakers weren't sure what he could offer in the first-round series, but all accounts show he's as healthy as can be. 

609719254. Phil Jackson wearing his various championship rings. It's customary for Jackson to wear his most recent championship ring during his team's playoff run, a symbolic reminder of what the goal is and that he knows what it takes to win one. This year, Jackson has switched it up a bit.

“I think I’m starting at the beginning and working all the way through,” Jackson said. 

That means he's been wearing a different ring for every game, from starting Game 1 with the his championship ring he won as player with the New York Knicks in the 1972-73 season and then nearly covering the Chicago Bulls' dynasty through Games 2 (1990-91), 3 (1991-92), 4 (1992-93), 5 (1995-96) and 6 (1996-97), meaning he'll start Game 1 of the Lakers-Mavericks series wearing his 1997-98 championship ring with the Chicago Bulls. Jackson had also won a ring with the 1969-1970 New York Knicks team, but he missed the playoffs because he was recovering from spinal fusion surgery.

When the Lakers faced a 2-2 series tie entering Game 5, Jackson joked he might not be able to wear all of his rings as planned because his team would be eliminated too soon. Clearly it's a great motivator to spur the players to push for what would be Jackson's 12th NBA championship as a coach and 14th overall.

5. Matt Barnes getting a mohawk in honor of his late mother. What started out as a bet with his teammates at Golden State in 2007 soon turned into a yearly playoff ritual. He had considered it unlikely the Warriors would make the 2007 postseason, leading him to joke he'd get a mohawk if it happened. So once Golden State matched up with the Dallas Mavericks as an eighth seed, Barnes followed through on his bet with his mother, Ann, providing positive feedback.

The haircut caught a buzz, particularly after the Warriors upset the Mavericks in the first round, with Barnes' mother leading the support. That remains a visible image for Barnes, whose mother died on Nov. 27, 2007, only 26 days after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. That's why Barnes' Mohawk routine proves to be more than just a playoff ritual. 

"It makes me smile more when I think about the haircut," Barnes said. "She loved the haircut and was a part of that experience with us. Her dying shortly after, it was one of her fondest memories of me playing, so it makes me smile a lot more."

-- Mark Medina

mgmedin@gmail.com

Top photo: The Lakers huddle before entering the court at New Orleans Arena on Sunday night before Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against the Hornets. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson heads toward the court after calling a timeout during Game 1 at Staples Center. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

 
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RE-POST

hobbitmage

For the record, I have not made ANY predictions about us three-peating. I am simply expressing optimism and supporting it with historical trends from Phil Jackson coached teams, both past and present. As for this statistician "floating around the blog, who may know more/say it better" (nice unnecessary dig, BTW), I would LOVE to see his more accurate, telling numbers. Admittedly, the data I post are general numbers which don't dissect minutiae like PERs and EFFs do (and things like that).

All I know that this Lakers team is built for the playoffs. It is still a big man's game until proven otherwise and with our experience and having a superstar like Kobe Bryant and a head coach like Phil Jackson: advantage Lakers.

HAVING SAID THAT, it guarantees nothing.

hobbitmage

For the record, I have not made ANY predictions about us three-peating.

Posted by: KobeMVP888 | April 30, 2011 at 09:09 AM

-------------------
hobbit/MVP,

Enough already. I want predictions from both of you. We've been watching the 8 remaining teams for the last 6 months. Who's going to be the final 4 standing? Who's going to play for the chip and last but not least who'll be the last team standing?

Edwin

Phil Jackson has made it crystal clear that he is retiring. He has always been an enigma, so what he does with his future is complete speculation. If I were a GUESSING man, I would say that he takes his relationship with Jeanie Buss very seriously. That's as far as I can go with it.

I disagree with you about Jerry Sloan and Rick Adelman. Jerry Sloan may coach a physical brand of basketball, but he offense first. His teams were never among the league's elite defensively. Adelman, on the other hand, turned these mediocre Rockets teams into solid defensive teams. Remember that 22 game winning streak? Most of that was done without Yao Ming anchoring the defense. Hw took 2 Portland teams to the NBA Finals as well. He had that up tempo offense with the Kings which was built around his personnel, but then changed his coaching philosophy (ala Pat Riley) when he went to Houston. That's why I prefer him over Sloan. Keep Sloan away from us. Pretty please with sugar on top. He's stubborn and only knows one way.

BTW, I'm such a Phil Jackson homer that if anyone construed my takes as "eliminating the services of Phil in the midst of the playoff season," they would be making fools of themselves.

LRob,

No use of asking a Laker fan on who will be the last team standing? You are not a Laker fan if your heart is not with the Lakers. However, the head says otherwise considering there are flipping of switches from game to game. We often wondered which Laker team will emerge, the team that went 17-1 in the 2nd half of the season or the team that lost five in a row? Secondly, Lakers are so vulnerable depending on the health of Kobe or the knees of Drew? We are always at the edge of our seat....praying? lol!

Ahhhh must we recap the last series.. MM you got yours and I got mine!

Here's yellofever top 5 stories:

1. Phils incriminating comments to media on kobes refusal to have MRI leading to MM spearheading another kobe hate campaign
2 Gasol getting very comfy going for extended ride in landrys yellow schoolbus
3 Ron flexing his biceps
4 the return of the KILLERS Bs
5 kobe earthshaking rimrattling series changing slamma jamma DUNK!!

TGIS!

@Edwin - I know its tough, but we have to separate our heart from our head. Fortunately my heart and head both tell me Lakers. Now its been other seasons when the Lakers were very good but my head told me they still wouldn't win it all. Oh yeah, nice Ventures...got me ready for a little Hawaii 5-0.


@Tri - 40 days of jamming...cool!

I agree with Adelman over Sloan. But first preference is still BShaw.

Edwin,

Tough question. Clearly, if we're just talking Coach K, it's a moot point. I mean, if he were to retire tomorrow, and never coach again, he's rightfully in the HOF, and I think most people would agree he's one of the greatest coaches of all time.

As to the other issue raise you raise, you can only speculate. I think you're asking whether or not the NCAA has devolved into a one year developmental league for the NBA , and if so, how does this effect what we think of coaches at the college level? I don't there's anyway to know that Edwin, esp given that the NBA/NCAA could again change the rules for eligibility. If you want me to speculate I'll ramble for a couple of sentences. I think you're always going to have guys like Coach K, or Calhoun, who stay at the college level, because they enjoy teaching youngsters, or they don't want to deal with the pressure, or they see college ball as the purer form, etc. I also think there will always be enough people that hold the college game in high regard that successful college coaches will also be held in high esteem. FWIW, those are my thoughts at this moment.

Snake, Coach K was my first choice. Character and a winner who coached Kobe, Odom and a very likable coach. Somebody told us here in the blog that he will never leave the NCAA and Duke University. How can you be regarded as a great Coach if you did not try or proceeded to NBA coaching?

Posted by: Edwin Gueco | April 30, 2011 at 09:18 AM

---

I know he turned down the offer in 2004 but the situation has changed since then. He has nothing else to prove in the NCAA; he can enter the HOF just on the basis of his NCAA achievements. He has already proven himself in international competition. There are no other mountains to climb except the NBA.

Unlike 2004, when the Lakers were in flux, he will be handed an intact championship team on a silver platter. None of that rebuilding crap. He has already established rapport with Kobe and Lamar. And the Lakers front office has demonsrated that they are willing to pay top dollar for the right coach. An opportunity like this may never pass his way again.

MM, can you refresh us with the games against Mavs during this season in your future threads? If I remember right, they beat us once and we won 2x, one in Dallas. When we lost, I think JKidd was given a wide space to execute those perimeter shooting. i don't know, I just feel Dallas has phobia of the Lakers. It is only Cuban who appears to be the attack dog in that team, a fiery rottweiler and the rest are all loud barking chihuahuas. hoho lol!

@MM & YELLOWFEVER … You both missed the biggest story from the Lakers and Hornets series – Andrew Bynum making it out of the first round healthy and with a team-top EFF rating. If defense wins championships, then Drew was at worst co-MVP of the Lakers first round triumph.
……………………………………………
@LROB … I find it hard to believe that the Lakers would hire a coach from outside since that would likely mean a change in offensive systems which I don’t think makes sense for a veteran team that knows the Triangle Offense and has just won its third straight NBA championship. It’s BShaw.
……………………………………………
TOM


LRob

I abhor predictions, especially my own. I'm superstitious and don;t want to jinx the Lakers. I'm rarely right and I'm more "half-empty" than my posts would lead you to believe. I scream at the television, I'm puzzled by the Lakers inconsistent play, ESPECIALLY on offense, and I "worry" as much as anyone. The reason I use statistics is to reassure myself that everything will be all right in the end. When we continued the trend of winning a road Game 3 after we were tied 1-1 and then closed out on our first attempt on the road, it gave me more reassurance because it supported the recent historical trends with this team. I was also reassured by Phil Jackson's post-series comments that this could be his best team ever when all is said and done. I'm not sure if that was a motivational tool or whether he was referring to the defense.

HAVING SAID THAT, here you go, my friend:

Lakers 4, Mavs 1
Thunder 4, Grizzlies 2

Celtics 4, Heat 2
Bulls 4, Hawks 0
..........

Lakers 4, Thunder 3
Bulls 4, Celtics 2
..........

Lakers 4, Bulls 2

1-2-3 RING! #17 coming up STRONG!!

Good take Snake, let us start the bandwagon rolling for Coach K.

A reminder to Coach K, you have not reached the pinnacle of Coaching until u prove it in NBA. Here is a song dedicated for you why u should move from Duke to the Lakers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdCrZfTkG1c

MM, can you refresh us with the games against Mavs during this season in your future threads? If I remember right, they beat us once and we won 2x, one in Dallas. When we lost, I think JKidd was given a wide space to execute those perimeter shooting. i don't know, I just feel Dallas has phobia of the Lakers. It is only Cuban who appears to be the attack dog in that team, a fiery rottweiler and the rest are all loud barking chihuahuas. hoho lol!

Posted by: Edwin Gueco | April 30, 2011 at 10:42 AM

---

It was raining 3's in that loss to DAL. Kidd was 5 of 8 and Terry was 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. PJ's defensive philosophy is to give up the lower percentage 3 rather than the drive to the basket.

The Lakers won the regular season series, 2-1
1. January 19 (at Dallas)- Mavericks 109, Lakers 100
2. March 12 (at Dallas)- Lakers 96, Mavericks 91
3. March 31 (at Staples)- Lakers 110, Mavericks 82

Here's the recap of each one

http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2011/01/lakers-109-100-loss-to-mavericks-demonstrates-inconsistency-in-carrying-momentum.html

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/12/sports/la-sp-0313-lakers-mavericks-20110313

http://lakersblog.latimes.com/lakersblog/2011/03/physical-play-defines-lakers-110-82-victory-over-dallas-mavericks.html

1---Coaching: It's total posturing to say that you never reach the top as a coach unless you go in the NBA. So Wooden isn't at the top? If you say no, then you know nothing of coaching. Coach K would still be taking a team in flux, as the Lakers have som vital moves to make in the off-season. Shaw is the logical choice. Sloan? Please. Adelman? Will never get the team in his pocket.
2---Predictions: Lakers over Mavs in 6 (due to lack of motivation; they own Dallas), Thunder over Grizz in 5, Bulls over Hawks in 5, Celts over Heat in 6, Lakers over Thunder in 6, Bulls over Celts in 7, Lakers over Bulls in 6.
3---

2011 WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS

SECOND ROUND

LOS ANGELES LAKERS vs DALLAS MAVERICKS

LAKERS IN 5

====------ === ------====
/_____l______l__ ___\____
ll l -------l > 4 - 1 < -- l ------- l---]
L___(0)l______l__ ____l(0) J

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