Records: Lakers 44-10 (1st in the West) Hornets 32-20 (5th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.4 (1st in league) Hornets 109.3 (8th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (9th in league) Hornets 106.2 (10th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Hornets Chris Paul, Rasual Butler, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Hilton Armstrong
Lakers notes: I have to say that the best thing about the trading deadline is that none of the Lakers key opponents for the title got noticeably stronger. Out West, the Spurs stood still, as did Denver and Utah. And the Hornets when it was all said and done.
But Boston and Cleveland also decided to go with what they had. With KG’s injury (hope he is back soon for the good of the sport) I just keep thinking Cleveland is getting the home court advantage out East. That side of the bracket is going to be interesting — come in second and you will have to play a good Orlando team in the second round before you get the top seed. That can wear you down, so Cleveland getting the top seed could be huge. By the way, that noise you hear is the sound of the cash register in David Stern’s head as he thinks about a Kobe/LeBron finals.
On a different topic, about Kobe’s clutchness: He has made 13 go-ahead field goals in the fourth quarter this season. That is tied for third in the Association (with Danny Granger) behind two Spurs — Duncan and Parker.
Last meetings: This is the fourth meeting this season, the Lakers have won two of the first three (all three were won by the road team). The first two games in the Big Easy were pretty comfortable Laker wins, with the team jumping out early and not having to worry about anything but a late run. The Lakers got balanced scoring in the first meeting, the second time it was the Kobe and Pau show.
The last meeting, in LA, was the David West show. He had 40, CP3 added 32 and 15 dimes.
The Hornets Coming In: What is the feeling in Louisiana after the rescinded trade for Tyson Chandler? This comment over at Hornets24/7 pretty much sums it up, I think.
The Hornets emerge from the madness with nothing much to show for themselves but a credibility hit. Tyson Chandler won’t have an easy time redevoting himself to a franchise that was so willing to part with him. Chris Paul and David West are obviously glad to have TC back, but they must be questioning the direction of the team when management seemed more concerned with saving money these past few days than keeping a great core intact.
It was not the sprained ankle that has Chandler out tonight that nixed the trade. It was his big toe, which was operated on a year ago. Ironically, the doctor that did the surgery is the one who did the physical for the Thunder, and he told them that while the toe was fine now it could go in a big way at any time, and they’d be taking on a big risk with this trade. So the Thunder backed out.
One other topic worth noting (and I’m cribbing here from an APBR thread that becomes about adjusted +/-) — Chris Paul is the defensive lynchpin of the Hornets.
He himself is playing better defense this season: opposing PGs are shooting 46.7% (eFG%) against him this season, down from 51.8% last season. When he is on the floor, the Hornets give up 106.1 points per 100 possessions (better than last season’s 107.6 when he was playing).
But, when he is off the floor, the Hornets give up 113.5 per 100 possessions. To give you an idea, if they played like that all the time, they would be 29th in the league in defense (only Sactown would be worse). What is shocking is that last season they improved when Paul sat — 101.4. I’m not close enough to the situation to know why things changed, but they did.
Keys To The Game: Based on that last paragraph above — the Lakers bench needs to make big runs in the few minutes CP3 is sitting. Take advantage of his absence.
The last meeting between these two was the game when Odom hyperextended his knee in the second quarter. It is no coincidence that the David West went off in that game — Odom frustrates West, but he is really the only Lakers that does. He Odom back tonight and him holding West in check as he tends to do will be key.
The Lakers are not going to stop Chris Paul, they never do. Nobody does — CP3 has scored or assisted on 48% of his team’s baskets this season (the highest figure in the NBA). (Kobe, by the way, is fifth in the league at 36.7%.) But the Lakers cannot let Paul rack up 15 assists like he did last game — they need to give him the “Steve Nash Treatment.” Make him a shooter, not a distributor. He’s a great shooter and scorer, but the Hornets by far are a more dangerous team when he is getting everyone involved and not just shooting himself.
Lots of pick-and-roll tonight — in the past the Lakers length has bothered the Hornets on their bread-and-butter play, but that means active bigs. The Lakers need to use their size to slow the probing of the defense by Paul as well as not let West get a bunch of open looks. West (and Posey) are not going to pass, you have to take the shot away from them.
Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples Center, and this is an ESPN Game. If you want to watch online, there’s a good feed at ESPN360.