On Tap: The New Orleans Hornets

Kurt —  March 26, 2006

Lots of questions before a big game tonight.

Starting with, are there really a lot of Hornets in New Orleans? Oklahoma City? In case you didn’t know, the nickname Hornets fit in Charlotte because of a Civil War tie to that city. But New Orleans? Of course, there aren’t a lot of lakes in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City is not really a jazz hotbed….

Kwame Brown, how much does he play? In the last 10 games, the much-maligned Kwame Brown — I thought he was a disappointment, at best, for much of the season — has played pretty well. In the last 10 games, Kwame is shooting 64.8%, exactly what you want from him in that he doesn’t shoot much but is efficient when he does it. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow, it may not matter tonight.

Kwame tweaked his hamstring in the win against the Bucks and did not practice with the team Saturday. The report is his minutes may be limited tonight.

Win and we’re in? That’s not the mathematical reality, but it’s pretty close. The Lakers, the seventh seed, have a three-game lead over the Hornets with 11 to play. Win tonight and that is a four-game lead with 10 to play. Dandy Don can come in and sing at that point.

What’s the good and bad from the Buck’s game? The Lakers got good play out of the starting five but little out of their bench — Walton -14, Sasha -13, George -11. The Lakers jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, then made the big run in the third quarter and both times it was the starters (with Walton subbing out Cook halfway through the third quarter run). It was enough to get the win, but the Lakers need better play from the bench.

That said, they beat a team they should beat. Can’t just take that for granted anymore.

What Lakers have played well agains the Hornets? Kobe has been Kobe against the Hornets this year, averaging 37.5 points per game in the two meetings. But what has really killed the Hornets is the Lakers big guys who can hit the spot up — Brian Cook is shooting 80.8% (eFG%) in the two games, Devean George 70% in the one game he played.

Much like the Bucks game the other night, when the Lakers beat the Hornets earlier this month, they made their big runs with the starters on the floor. The one difference was Walton played the fourth instead of Cook.

Keys to a Laker win: While the Hornets are 1-9 in their last 10 and the Lakers beat them the last time these two hooked up, the Lakers have yet to really slow them. And that will be the key.

Soon to be Rookie of the Year Chris Paul is averaging 20.5 points per game against the Lakers, shooting 57.5% (eFG%) — Smush Parker has to stay in front of him. David West has averaged 18 points of 50% shooting — the Lakers are going to need a strong defensive game inside, maybe from Bynum. And the list goes on: Speedy Claxton has averaged 15 points of 50% shooting, Desmond Mason has averaged 18 points on 63% shooting, Rasual Butler has shot 73%.

The Hornets are a team that can be stopped — they are 25th in the league in offensive efficiency, averaging just 100.2 points per 100 possessions (the Lakers are at 106). If the Lakers play defense like they are capable, the playoffs will be almost assured.