Preview and Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

Darius Soriano —  January 7, 2011

Records: Lakers 25-11 (3rd in West), Hornets 21-15 (6th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.3 (3rd in NBA), Hornets 104.3 (23rd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.8 (11th in NBA), Hornets 102.4 (6th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hornets:  Chris Paul, Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, David West, Emeka Okafor
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff (out); Hornets: none

What Ails You?:  The Lakers are riding a two game win streak on the strength of improved offensive execution, a knack for controlling the glass, and timely defense.  So things are looking up in that the Lakers may be starting to turn the corner by playing some better basketball and building some momentum.

But they’re also a bit banged up.  After having a pretty scary fall in the last game, Lamar Odom is dealing with a sore left shoulder.  That’s okay though because it’s not like he’s left han…oh wait.  And then there’s a story that Peter Vescey of the NY Post ran today where Kobe acknowledes that he’s dealing with an “almost bone on bone” situation with his right knee that’s led to increased swelling since he started practicing more in the past couple of weeks (for those that were unaware, Kobe has been sitting out a lot of practices this year to save the wear and tear on his body as well as to help deal with his recovery from off-season knee surgery).

All of this is just another sub-plot to what’s “wrong” with the Lakers, but ultimately I just see it as the grind of the season.  Neither player is going to miss tonight’s game and both have been known to gut their way through most ailments.  That said, it’d be nice if the Lakers can continue to play well while also getting these guys some extra minutes of rest.  Especially with a game heavy January still mostly in front of them.

The Hornets Coming in:  Since losing to the Lakers only 8 days ago, the Hornets have won 3 of 4 games.  Their year long formula of being carried by their defense while relying on Chris Paul to make enough plays on offense to pull out games has been the norm in that stretch.  In their most recent game they lost to the Warriors in a game where Chris Paul just couldn’t get it going in the final frame.

And speaking of Chris Paul, there’s a great piece up on him by Beckley Mason of HoopSpeakwhere he talks about the current state of CP3′s game that you should go over and read.  Here’s a sample (via TrueHoop):

The way he finished, no one would say he played a perfect game. Yet he finished with a near flawless stat line of 24 points, 13 assists (two TOs), and six rebounds on 6-12 shooting.

As a result of games like these, I find myself confused as to whether Paul is really back, even though he may well be the game’s best point guard.

The entire thing is worth your time as it really details how Paul is still quite excellent (and maybe even more efficient than ever) while still not being the same force of nature that he was before his injury.  Go check it out.  (We’ll be here when you get back.)

Hornets Blogs:  Check out Hornets 24/7 for your news and notes on this team.  Also give At The Hive a click over.

Keys to game:  Being that these teams just met and the Lakers dominated, it’d be easy to say “just do what worked the last time” and leave it at that.  In that game, Andrew Bynum got his first start of the year and the Lakers controlled the inside with post ups and interior passing where the bigs were able to go off.  Odom especially had a great game in his first game as a reserve going for 24 points and playing in attack mode all night.

That last sentence is why it may be difficult for the Lakers to completely duplicate what worked so well a week ago.  With Odom banged up (and on his shooting shoulder too) the Lakers can still work inside but will have to rely almost exclusively on the exploits on Bynum and Gasol (just too tough to rely on LO with the condition of his shoulder really an unknown).  Normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but Gasol hasn’t had his best stretch of late and that may mean that Bynum has to do a bit more as a post scorer (which he’s looked capable doing lately).  I’m not saying Pau can’t get it done – he has a good match up with West where he can use his height and reach over the former Xavier product – but I do expect a more balanced attack between Pau and ‘Drew tonight as both have the chance to do work against undersized defenders.

Obviously Kobe also has a favorable match up facing off against Marco Belinelli to start the game.  Kobe has a size and strength advantage against Marco so I would not be surprised to see Kobe find ways to turn his offensive possessions into post ups even when he doesn’t set up at the low block.  Expect to see Kobe waive off players to isolate a side and initiate back down moves from 18 feet and in.  This will give him the chance to either get off his shot easily or hit open players if the Hornets decide they’d like to commit extra defenders.  I know this isn’t classic Triangle stuff, but it the end formation of Kobe doing work from the elbow and down is a place that he’s extremely comfortable and a spot where the team often tries to get him the ball.  (I liken all of it to what the Lakers did against Denver in 2009.)

Defensively, Chris Paul is the key to everything that the Hornets do so dealing with him is the biggest key.  As usual he’ll look to work the P&R to either set up Okafor on rolls to the hoop or to West who can both pop to the short wing or dive to the cup.  If neither of those options are there, Paul is still master of manipulating defenses to get to his sweet spot at the FT line where he can shoot his mid-range jumper.  The Lakers can slow this entire action by helping off the wings as the Hornets don’t possess the types of shooters that scare you.  However, it must be noted that Belinelli and Ariza are both capable of getting hot from out there so ignoring them completely isn’t recommended.  The Lakers must be smart with their help and not just use leaving them alone behind the arc as their default position.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of revenge in this game.  The loss from December 29th is surely still fresh on the minds of the Hornets and they’d like nothing else than to return the favor tonight.  Earlier this year we saw how the Lakers took a loss to the Pacers personally and came out hungry with something to prove in the rematch.  The Hornets have talent and they have one of the most competitive players in the league playing point guard.  These guys will be ready to compete and tonight’s not the night for the Lakers to rest on the fact that they’ve been playing better of late.  The same mindset of improving and doing the little things must be at the forefront of tonight’s effort.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on Fox Sports West.  Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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28 responses to Preview and Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

  1. is it just me, or does it seem weird that lazenby and vecsey have basically the same article, but vecsey has a lot more?

  2. Wait, Kobe has a bone-on-bone issue in his right knee? Isn’t that the same reason why Portland is crapping their pants because that’s what Roy has?

  3. Igor,
    Don’t worry. Just read the comments in previous threads. We’ve been assured many times that Kobe has not lost any of his physical capabilities, and has no reason to adjust his style of play.

  4. Roy is, what? 10 years younger than Kobe, for one. Jeff Hornacek is a guy that played for years with bone-on-bone in his knee–Utah playoff games in the late 90s were never complete without mentioning it–and if memory serves, so did Stockton.

    Both players, of course, had significantly less athletic games than does Kobe, but it’s possible to play, and play at a relatively high level, without knee cartilage, it’s just more painful. Chris Paul’s meniscus surgery last year had the same result, he’s got no or next to no cartilage in one of his knees as well.

    I just hope Kobe paces himself this year and doesn’t kill his teammates in practice, or his knee. A friend keeps telling me championships aren’t won in December and January, but playoff seeding certainly is, and more home games (and fewer travel days) always helps the chances.

  5. Can somebody please find me one of those Staples Easy Buttons?

  6. #1. Vescey spoke with Kobe. Lazenby quotes observers.

  7. De-fend the court!

    De-fend the court!

    De-fend the court!

  8. Folks, please keep in mind that Kobe was bitten by a radioactive spider in his youth, which is the reason he can do so many things other professional athletes (let alone ordinary mortals) cannot.

    In other words, he’s fine.

  9. Flip, I’ll add that while Vecsey spoke to Kobe, he’s also one to raise the volume in his articles, as much as possible usually. Just my observation over the years.

    Ex, you’re not being at all facetious are you? Btw, I referenced bog snorkeling in SfS today… just for old time’s sake, haha.

  10. LA can’t catch a break in the standings, San Antonio just doesn’t lose close games (except against Boston). Would have been nice to see them lose 3 straight.

  11. Somewhat Laker-related note: Sasha shot 1-14 today… a low after the high of that game-winner during the week!

  12. Was Phil yelling at Gasol right before that commercial break? Sure looked like it.

  13. yeah Phil is really laying into Pau tonight

  14. Once again, Lakers need to use their height to go to the middle, but the Hornets, like everyone else, know that we don’t like to hustle to the middle.

    Why isn’t Fish act as a point guard and be a passer like Chris Paul?

    Phil Jackson seems to be putting it all out on Pau lol

  15. Besides the turnovers, that was a good half from the Lakers. The TO’s allowed the Hornets to keep the game close. Also the Lakers D could be a bit better, but credit the Hornets for knocking down shots that the Lakers want them taking.

    As for Pau, if Phil is really giving it to him it seems to be working. That was Pau’s best half in several games as he scored 11 points (making all 4 of his shots) and grabbed 8 rebounds while also handing out 4 assists.

  16. its frustrating that so much of our offense success depends on whether Pau can be bothered to fight for post position

  17. Lamar Odom is having another great game tonight, he is currently the key of this squad.

  18. Did barnes get hurt?

  19. Harold,
    Barnes sprained his knee and has an MRI scheduled for tomorrow. Also, Blake rolled his ankle but it was reported that he was available to come back in. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.

  20. Wow, so its said that Odom is the key to the team. What do you guys think? I Previously believed Gasol was the key as long as he fought for the ball, but after thinking about it….

  21. anyone have a link?

  22. Damn, Barnes, Odom and Blake all have injuries right now. Somebody needs to step up in their next games.

  23. Blake was obviously in pain, but when he walked back out he was putting weight on that foot again. He will be fine. He may need a couple of weeks before he is, but he will be fine.

    Barnes on the other hand… Barnes, I am worried about.

  24. One of these days I’ll make a running diary of a game, just to point out all the times Pau is open in the post, calling for the ball – and still not receiving it. All this talk about “not fighting for position” is largely a myth.

    Whenever they throw the ball in there (to Drew too of course), the offense is about 50 % more efficient – period.

  25. 24 – I really think we are at chicken/egg catch 22 with Pau and his touches. During the game Joel Meyers attempted to make a similar point to which Stu Lantz quickly rebutted. On this site you will see posters come down on both sides.

    Right now my eyes see Andrew Bynum being aggressive. He fights for position and is pretty decisive when he gets the ball. Pau, on the other hand, plays timid on many nights. How many times over the last few weeks have we seen Pau catch the ball near the three point line? That happens more often than some want to admit. If I am a wing player I wouldn’t see a point in passing the ball to my big man if he is that far out. That’s not even a post entry pass because he is not in the post.

    Gasol has to consistently fight for good position, and call for the ball. If he does that more Derek and Kobe will find him.

  26. Reign on Parades January 7, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I don’t think this is the game to be complaining about not forcing the ball inside. Lakers made a concerted effort to abuse the Hornets’ lack of size.

    To pre-empt box score watchers who flip their lids at Gasol’s 8 FGA, keep in mind that FTs (he had 12, albeit padded by late game intentional fouling) and ASTs and TOs are also possessions: Pau had 7 of the former and 4 of the latter.

    Bynum had 13 shots, 3 FTs and 3 TOs

    Lamar shoulder and all had 15 shots, 2 FT, and 2 AST. Although in fairness he spent more time as a face up player than on the box tonight

    But all in all, nobody should complain about the front court’s touches, USG rate, etc. tonight.

    Further boxscore analysis on the perimeter players: only Kobe’s last three 3PT attempts could be considered random hoists (i do wish he’d take less but i’m sure fans of every elite perimeter wing feels the same). He and Artest also doubled as front court players when they posted up the likes of Jarret Jack and Bellinelli.

    And Fish, while ineffective from the field, had 6 assists and his 2 turnovers were botched entry attempts to Bynum

    Also, only 12 3 pt attempts

    All in all a glorious night for scoring in the paint

  27. ROP- Great post! It’s nice to see someone rebut this “Pau doesn’t touch the ball enough” crap that seems to be going around here.

    He gets his touches, but he doesn’t always shoot the ball! Pau is a strange bird when it comes great alpha dog NBA players. Why? Well, he has the talent and skillset to be great, but he doesn’t have the mindset of a Kobe, MJ, Wade, Shaq, or Timmy D. He lacks whatever it is that makes those guys alpha dogs. I love Pau Gasol. He’s so damn good and when he is really rolling he plays beautiful basketball.

    The problem with Pau is he’s just too damn nice! At least that’s how it seems anyway. He doesn’t seem to have that mean streak that KG has. When someone starts being physical with him he tends to wilt instead of fighting back. Now I’m not saying he’s soft and I am also not saying he always does this, but it happens a lot. Maybe this is why he tends to disappear sometimes. Gasol gets enough touches. He just has to be more aggressive with the touches he does get.