Preview and Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

Darius Soriano —  March 27, 2011

Records: Lakers 52-20 (2nd in West), Hornets 42-31 (7th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.7 (2nd in NBA), Hornets 106.2 (20th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (7th in NBA), Hornets 104.2 (6th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hornets: Chris Paul, Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor
Injuries: Lakers: Devin Ebanks & Theo Ratliff (out); Hornets: David West (out)

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers are the hottest team in the league (or at least right there with the Bulls). That said, there are still things to improve on. Phil Jackson has called out his bench, looking for better play from his reserves. He specifically asks for better D and less turnovers on O and I can’t blame him. What I’m seeing is a tendency to try and make the big play on both sides of the ball rather than playing with a more methodical approach that’s worked so well for his starting group. Shannon Brown consistently gambles for steals by shooting the gap in passing lanes and nearly every bench player makes at least one homerun pass a game looking for the play that gets the crowd off their feet rather than making the pass that will simply progress the offensive set in motion. For what it’s worth, the bench players themselves recognize this. As cited in the article linked above, when Lamar Odom was asked about the bench’s performance of late, he pulled no punches:

If I had to grade it, the last 10 games would be a ‘C,’ and close to an ‘F’

Well then. While I wouldn’t go that far (LO is known to strive for perfection) the reserves do need to get back to playing within themselves more and running the sets on both sides of the ball. I’d like to see less reliance on perimeter shots and for the ball to stick less on the wing by players that want to dribble and probe the D looking for their own shot (that means you, Shannon Brown). Defensively, I’d like to see the big men better help when wings penetrate the lane. I understand that Pau and LO aren’t going to provide the same presence that Bynum does, but seeing players get all the way to the rim in both the half court and in transition is frustrating.

The Hornets Coming in: We often talk about the up and down nature of a season when discussing the Lakers. Well, our guys have nothing on the Hornets when it comes to roller coaster campaigns. From Chris Paul trade rumors, to ownership changes (the NBA ended up buying the team), to dealing with lease issues surrounding their long term future in New Orleans, this team has seen it’s fair share of drama both on and off the court all while holding on to a playoff spot in the tough as ever western conference. You would think this would be enough with the regular season winding down. However, they’ve recently been dealt another blow when David West landed awkwardly on his left knee, tearing his ACL and being ruled out for the rest of the season. Luckily, the Hornets had completed a trade at the deadline that netted them Carl Landry who for all extents and purposes is a poor man’s David West (they possess similar skill sets, West just does them all better) but that still leaves the Hornets woefully thin in their front court with few options to turn to.

With so many challenges to work through, it’s lucky that this team still has Chris Paul. CP3 is having another banner year and showing his leadership by putting this team on his back and carrying them home. Even after sitting out two games with a concussion, he’s come back stronger than ever, putting up nearly 23 points and over 11 assists (to only 3 turnovers) a game while also adding nearly 3 steals and over 5 rebounds in the six contests since his return. For all the talk of Rose as the MVP, Paul has also been fantastic and consistently reminds us that he should still be in the conversation as best PG in the league.

Hornets Blogs: Hornets 24/7 and At The Hive are two great team sites dedicated to covering this team. You should check them both out.

Keys to game: With our without David West, the keys to beating the Hornets are the same. The Lakers need to get the ball inside to Gasol and Bynum and let them go to work against undersized defenders. In Bynum’s first start of the year he faced off against the Hornets and poured in 18 points on efficient post ups and offensive rebounds (really, we tracked it). Tonight, he’s more than capable of doing the same thing should the Lakers get him the ball in the pivot against Okafor.

Gasol should also get ample touches against Landry. In the Lakers’ recent run, Gasol has been doing stellar work at the mid-post and elbow working his jumper and then countering with quick drives off ball fakes and tonight should be no different against Landry. Run sets through Pau and let him get going early, and the results should mean easier shots for everyone.

And that includes Kobe. Even though #24 has a distinct match up advantage over Belinelli, I’d still like to see him do more work off the ball to get his looks. I’d love it if he deferred early and let the ball come back to him later in the clock as he’s a guy that can get a shot off in isolation whenever he wants against the defenders that he’ll see this evening. If the ball goes into the post, Kobe can work off cross screens and flash into the paint coming off curls for easier most of the night. If he really does end up isolating, I’d prefer that those touches come at the mid post at the elbow when Odom is in the game rather than on the wing when both Pau and Drew are in there with him. Tonight’s game offers a chance for Kobe to score efficiently with minimal work if he’d get the ball out of his hands early. We’ll see if he takes this approach or not, but I’m hopeful he does.

Defensively the Lakers will need to focus all their energy on limiting Paul. He’ll obviously look to exploit the Lakers P&R defense but he’s more able to exploit the Lakers’ scheme than other players with his ability to knock down the mid-range jumper coming off that pick. Considering that’s the shot the Lakers are comfortable surrendering, Paul should get ample looks from 18 feet and a lot of the Lakers success on D will depend on if A). Paul is knocking that shot down and B). if Bynum/Gasol are able to lay back to deny penetration while still jumping out to contest that shot when Fisher/Blake get picked off in these sets. LA’s bigs will need to show discipline but can’t get over anxious in stepping out on Paul considering he’s more than willing to dish to rolling big men or jump into them and draw contact to earn free throws.

The other player to worry about on O is Carl Landry. I mentioned earlier that he’s a poor mans version of David West, but he’s also a notorious Laker killer. Landry’s mid-range game often gives the Lakers fits as he’s very much capable of hitting that 15 foot jumper but also has a very good ball fake that allows him to use his good first step to get to the basket. Gasol and Odom will need to honor that shot but not fall for his fakes so as to give up easier shots at the basket. They’ll also need to understand that his pet move off the dribble is spin off defenders and draw contact, so I’d love to see both Laker bigs keep him to one side and make him finish over length rather than allowing him an escape route to easier looks by allowing him to pivot away from the defense.

If the Lakers need to show any extra help on defense, this is one game where I wouldn’t mind seeing it come from the wings rather than the bigs. Outside of Belinelli, the Hornets don’t possess capable shooters (Ariza has been woeful this season from behind the arc and the separate trades of Peja and Thornton have left them without other wing shooters) so Ron and Barnes should have ample opportunities to dig down on Landry and Okafor and bother their handle and hopefully pick up some steals. Forcing turnovers against a team that’s led by Chris Paul isn’t easy (the Hornets are a top 10 team in protecting the ball) but the Lakers can earn some extra possessions by actively attacking the post when those guys commit to their offensive move.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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48 responses to Preview and Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

  1. It won’t surprise me to see RonRon literally break Trevor Ariza in half the way he has been playing and then proudly flex while frenching his biceps.

    RIP Trevor Ariza (Who would have thought a guy who couldn’t get on the court with the Knicks and the Magic isnt a capable NBA player)

  2. Given the frequent ACL tears in the NBA, figured this might be interesting.. it’s someone’s blog about their ACL surgery, with pictures.

  3. Simonoid – (From the last thread) – I got the hard copy off Amazon. E-copies usually give me a headache. Darius – looking into Breaks of the Game now, looks very promising.

    Question for Lamar Odom…what happened to a D?

  4. i feel like the bench’s offensive problems have to do with the “flow” of the offense.

    the offense should flow through our best playmakers–in this case lamar and pau. the ball is in the hands of blake and brown way too much. i would like to see these two dudes do more spot-up shooting and cutting and less playmaking.

    Defensively, it doesn’t make sense to me that the bench employs the same defensive scheme as the Bynum lineup. Maybe it’s asking too much, but I feel like the SSZ would suit the quicker bench a lot better.

  5. Ok – I’ll try to grab one off eBay then. Thanks.

    OT: Darius, let’s do a playoff pool. I’m sure I can top the likes of Zephid and Dude. Pft… Boston losing in the first round…

  6. Well ill be at the game. I’ll try to update fb&g on a 20 20 Bynum game (fingers crossed)

  7. 5, now that I think about it, it was 2009 that I picked them to lose in the 1st round. I definitely didn’t have them losing to Miami. Pretty sure I picked them to sweep Miami.

  8. Great preview Darius.

    I’ve always been a big proponent of Kobe starting from the triple threat at the pinch post / mid post

    Lots of people don’t realize that Odom’s perimeter skills allow Kobe post touches without sacrificing spacing (which would happen if Kobe posted w/ Drew and Gasol in the game)

  9. Sunday Evening + Good Run of Late + David West Out + Chris Paul = Trap Game.

    Let’s hope the Lakers treat this team as the wounded beast that it is. Work hard, keep your guard up, and finish it as quickly as possible.

  10. Trap game for several reasons.

    All that 3threeiii listed plus:

    Memphis playing well and NO has a brutal 9 games left (@Lakers, Blazers, Griz, Pacers, Rockets, Suns, @Griz, Jazz, and @Dallas), so NO will fall to eigth unless…..we lose this game and give them a fighting chance (they are only two games up).

    The problem with that is SA is losing steam and we have an outside chance of catching them plus we have to stay ahead of Dallas and we will cinch the second if we beat Dallas on the 31st. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

  11. Memphis has:

    SA (close game in the 4th), GSW, @NO, Wolves, Clips, Kings, NO, @Portland, and @Clips). Only two loses, three at most. The 8th seed is up in the air.

    The Lakers should just try and win out and play whom they play. Just stay healthy and stay as finely tuned as possible.

  12. Question about Bynum’s offense here, since his defense is top notch these days:

    On the admittedly few isos that Bynum has had without being double teamed, to me his post moves have looked a bit less fluid and the footwork a bit more rough than I think I’ve seen in past seasons.

    He still can overpower most defenders, but very seldomly does he actually create angles for easy shots like Gasol does. Of course Pau is one of the better guys in the league at this. But at least to my eye Bynum has recently had to shoot over his defenders more and from a little further out than I’d hope he’d do.

    What do you think? Is this due to his still recovering knee? Due to not getting a lot of opportunities/no rhythm? Due to simply being heavier/stronger and relying on power over speed? Just confidence?

    This is not to complain, since Bynum is filling his role really well defensively and also doing a good job passing the ball. But cleaning up his footwork a bit more (summer session with Hakeem or maybe Kobe?) would make him a threat every which way.

  13. In non-Laker-game news, it looks like the Grizz might knock off the Spurs, but Miami should hold off Houston. Boston have had their way with the TWolves as should be expected.

  14. i think we can all agree that would rather face the hornets than grizz, so winning tonight would leave me a bit conflicted, however if we win thats only a 4 game gap between us and spurs…

  15. I’m not that fond of Shannon’s play this year. He seems to think that he is the primary scorer off the bench. I’d prefer he play within the offense and score based on cuts and wide open opportunities. Shannon’s only move to creating a decent shot is a left dribble step-back fadeaway, and it had become very predictable.

    With the Spurs losing to Memphis, the Lakers are now 4 games back. If the Lakers can beat them in our final match up, the Spurs are now essentially only 3 games ahead. Of course, this would mean that the Lakers would need to remain perfect and for San Antonio to somehow lose 3 games along the way. Not a high probability, but.the Lakers need to use that as motivation for trap games such as tonight. But then again, if the Lakers had avoided losing trap games, they would probably be the 1st seed right now.

  16. James.

    We’re not going to catch the spurs for the #1 record. And if we loose and the mavs win we will be tied with them for second, so even though I would rather play the hornets in the first round too I would much rather have the 2nd seed and play the griz then have the 3rd seed

  17. Hollinger’s playoff give LA a 4.6% chance of #1 seed as of last night. If LA wins tonight, they have 1 left against SA… so if LA wins that the spurs would have to lose 3 more and LA win out.

    Spurs schedule is no cakewalk either with Boston,@ LA and Portland left and 3 vs. desperate playoff hopefuls (PHX, @PHX, @HOU)

    That McDyess tip-in could wind up costing LA a 1seed.

  18. Boston was up 30-10. The score is 68-68 now. Minny hanging tough.

  19. I heard, Manu was hurt in the Grizz-Spurs game?

  20. come on, wolves.

  21. Celts managed to squeak through after blowing that big lead. It would’ve been nice for Rambis’s boys to get that W.

  22. Anyone got a link for the game?

  23. Paula princess is a real dirtbag …. Beasly played to the end and stole the ball and one of his teammates scored … There was only 2 tenths of a second left so Paula princess decided to throw the ball at beasleys back 20 feet away instead of just throwing it in like a normal human being

    Sorry just had to share … I really hate everything about the little green men

  24. @20. ROFL at that photo…I like how Drew’s head towers over the car.

    Matt Money Smith just joked on Lakers Live that San Antonio/Popovich is tanking in order to avoid DEN/OKC in the 2nd round to get the easier #2 seed.

  25. bynum blocks paul’s jumper. incredible.

  26. Link?

  27. I will never tire of a ShanWOW dunk!

  28. And I will never tire of 30 point quarters.

  29. anyone have a live feed?

  30. Re: Bynum blocking CP3

    I think we found the guy on our team who can guard PGs one on one

  31. Joe Smith in the 1st half…

    For all of 30 seconds.

  32. Pretty professional half by the Lakers. Methodical and bruising, using their strengths to build this lead. I hope the bench can put together a stronger 2nd half to get the starters some rest in this one.

  33. we lost that link feed, anyone have another one?
    help an east tennessee boy out, eh?

  34. Wow, not the start to the 3rd that we would’ve liked. Still a solid lead, but giving up a few offensive boards and not knocking down shots. Fish is ice cold so far tonight.

  35. Lakers giving up way too many offensive boards right now but not totally surprising given Bynum’s foul trouble.

    PHX up 9 on Dallas after the first quarter. It would be great to see PHX get the win

  36. 39,
    Yep… We need a back up Center

  37. Man… That may have been a foul by Andrew but Aaron Gray deserves an Oscar for that flop.

  38. Luke Walton on the floor….Really?

  39. Jesus… The Beast! Is that a young Shaq on our team? Who is that #17?

  40. Honestly, Bynum would be so much more likable if you didn’t worship him so much.

  41. Luke played some good minutes. Hopefully Zephid doesn’t puke!

  42. 45, you obviously don’t follow me on twitter, because if so, you would have seen this exchange:

    Luke Walton is in. #TheReminder @EAbra”

    @forumbluegold Oh God, Oh God. *BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

    Yes, that is a 100+ character BARF

  43. 44,