There were a couple of key things I took away from the loss to the Hornets Tuesday night:
1) Itâ€™s all about the defense with this Laker team. We knew that â€” it was my mantra this summer â€” but sometimes a little reminder helps. After four games (a very small sample) the Lakers defensive rating is just about what it was last year, something that needs to improve. They have had good defensive games (Phoenix) and now a bad one. As was said many times in the comments, a number of Lakers helped off Peja (and West) then never recovered, and perimeter rotations were non-existent. The Lakers were so focused on stopping Paul (even Phil in his post-game comments focused on him breaking down the defense) that it gave the rest of the Hornets great looks, which they hit. The Lakers may consider the â€œSteve Nash systemâ€ (make Paul the shooter not the distributor) next game against NO.
2) The Lakers are still 2-2, having played four teams likely headed to the playoffs in the deep Western Conference. And they have done it without their second-best player. Remember, before the season we said if the Lakers could get through the first 10 games 5-5 that would be a pretty good sign, and right now they are on that pace.
So itâ€™s a loss, there will be more of those this season, and this one doesnâ€™t bother me a ton. No Kwame inside, no Mo Evans off the bench to go with no Lamar. Plus, the Hornets are healthy and improved â€” last year the problem was they couldnâ€™t shoot (47.9% eFG%, 28th in the league). This year, 54.4% on the season (third best). They are legit.
A few other random news and thoughts:
â€¢ I donâ€™t think the Lakers falling to the Hornets is a case of playing down to a team they should easily beat. However, Friday against Minnesotaâ€¦
â€¢ David West may be the most underrated player in the NBA.
â€¢ Tyson Chandler didnâ€™t score much or rebound much, but he was a presence and was a game-high +20.
â€¢ Great point by several commenters about the Lakers not going at Peja on the offensive end, getting him out of rhythm by making him play defense. This is where we miss Odom.
â€¢ If youâ€™re a sports/NBA columnist at this point going to the â€œKobe tradeâ€ column for the day, youâ€™re just picking the low-hanging fruit. The angles have been beaten into the ground and everyone is sick of it. Try harder.
â€¢ Dallas/Golden State tomorrow night should be entertaining. But I bet the Mavs crush them.
â€¢ Knickerbloggers stat page is up (this is my personal fave). That said, weâ€™ve got to get 15-20 games in before I put too much weight in the numbers.
â€¢ Are Hornets very common in New Orleans? The name made more sense in Charlotte (itâ€™s a Civil War reference from North Carolina) but Iâ€™m less sold in The Big Easy. Then again, the perfect New Orleans name is currently in the least jazzy big city in the nation.