From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Heading into the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs, nobody gave the New Orleans Hornets even a puncher’s chance in a series against the Lakers. Apparently, the Hornets didn’t get the memo. In Game 1 Sunday at Staples, Monty Williams and crew did a number on the two-time defending champs, playing stiff defense for most of the game while slicing and dicing the Los Angeles Lakers with an endless series of pick and rolls. In the end, they earned themselves a fairly stunning upset. I thought the Hornets would win a game in the series, but not Game 1. “It is dangerous,” Kobe Bryant said of losing the opener. “Absolutely. A series can be over quick.” Particularly given how the Lakers performed down the stretch. Here’s how it broke down. …
From Ryan Schwan, At The Hive: The Hornets just shattered a whole host of sweep predictions, winning 109-100 on the defending champion Lakers home court. The Hornets led for almost every minute of the game, played record-tying mistake free offensive basketball, and weathered a storm of free throws in the Lakers favor to start the game. As always, it was a tremendous team defensive effort that made the win possible as the Hornets combined to limit Bynum with foul trouble and Gasol in general. That, in turn, made Bryant take most of the shots through the second half, and history has shown that the Lakers are vulnerable when Bryant is being forced to carry most of the load himself. Then, of course, there was the Eater of Souls.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: I just noticed what a beautiful day it is outside. Here in Hollywood it’s about 80 degrees. The sun is bathing the city in a smooth, calming light. People are on the sidewalks, skateboarding and enjoying afternoon strolls. The city has not crumbled into a lawless hellscape in which looters run amok and stray dogs feast on the dead. The social contract is holding together and the city’s continuing to function somehow, despite a monstrously bad performance by our Los Angeles Lakers. I can only assume that the people I’m seeing on the streets either aren’t Lakers fans or don’t know how this afternoon’s game turned out. For today, at least, they’re the lucky ones.
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: This is not a changing of the guard in the West. Not yet. The day is coming when Oklahoma City and maybe New Orleans or Memphis are going to be whooping the Lakers and Spurs in the playoffs and it will not be an upset. There will be a passing torch (or more likely, the ripping of the torch out of Kobe Bryant’s hands, he’s not giving it up willingly). But don’t read that into the Lakers and Spurs dropping their games Sunday. The Lakers and Spurs had bad days (for different reasons) and while they may both have a tougher series than expected one game is not a huge signal. What we really saw is that in the West, the bottom half teams are still very good, and fully capable of beating the elites when the elites are not at their peak. But we’re a ways from saying the Spurs and Lakers are not the teams to beat.
From Rohan, At The Hive: That game was as special as they come. In the upcoming days, we’ll talk about the rest of this series, what the Lakers still have in store for the Hornets, and where we go from here. Right now though, it’s tough to do anything but simply enjoy this victory. We saw vintage Chris Paul, the Jarrett Jack we thought we traded for (and, honestly, a lot more), an absolutely invaluable career night from Aaron Gray, and outstanding coaching from Monty Williams. This is a win I’m going to remember for a long, long time. Where to start? Well, let’s begin with Aaron Gray. It’s rather interesting that on a night where he made a very limited impact on both the offensive and defensive glass, he still contributed in so many ways. With Emeka Okafor in foul trouble all night, Gray hit all five of his shots en route to 11 points.
From Daniel Buerge, Lakers Nation: By now you’ve probably seen or heard that Pau Gasol didn’t have a very good game yesterday. The Laker forward was just 2-9 from the floor and scored just eight points. His contributions elsewhere were minimal as well: six assists and six rebounds. For someone that is supposed to be the second best player on a team favored to win their third straight championship that isn’t going to get the job done. And the Lakers leader isn’t happy about it. When asked during post-game interviews how he felt about Gasol and the effort he put forth Bryant was candid. “If the effort isn’t there,” stated Bryant, “I’m not going to sit around and wait, especially in the playoffs.” In other words – step it up, Pau. While a loss should never be blamed fully on one player, and yesterday is no exception, there is no doubt that the majority of the blame has to fall on Gasol’s broad, Spanish shoulders.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Credit Chris Paul, who was a maestro all game but particularly brilliant with his grand finale. Kudos to New Orleans’ no-name bench, which enjoyed three guys outplaying likely NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom. But criticize the Lakers, too, for letting the Hornets own the playoff opener Sunday at Staples Center, 109-100. “We were the ones responsible for that to happen,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “We have to own up to that.” Gasol acknowledged his subpar outing of eight points on 2-of-9 shooting against clever mixed coverages by New Orleans. He was singled out after the game by All-Star teammate Kobe Bryant for not bringing enough.
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: Long after the Lakers finished fumbling their playoff opener, Pau Gasol stayed on a table in the trainer’s room, flat on his back, eyes closed. There was plenty to ponder. He picked a bad time to be more white swan than black swan, to steal Kobe Bryant’s comparison earlier this season. Gasol was outscored by Aaron Gray, outhustled by Carl Landry and reminded to take better care of his on-court business after the Lakers’ stunning 109-100 loss Sunday to New Orleans. “It’s one and two, it’s me and him,” Bryant said. “We get all the praise when things go our way and you get all the blame when things don’t. It’s part of the seats we sit in.”
From Mark Medina, LA Times: Walking toward the exit of the Lakers’ locker room, a team official paced nervously. “Where … is Pau Gasol?” the official said to himself. The locker room just opened to the media at 11 a.m. Sunday, 90 minutes before the Lakers’ Game 1 matchup with New Orleans and Gasol remained nowhere in sight. That prompted some concerns since this coincided with the team’s rule that players arrive at least 90 minutes for tipoff. Moments later, Lakers forwards Lamar Odom and Ron Artest slipped into the locker room and quickly dressed, hoping to avoid getting caught by assistant coach Frank Hamblen, who’s in charge of monitoring such things. Meanwhile, Lakers forward Luke Walton sat by his locker, laughed at his teammates’ tactics in avoiding detection and remarked the team has set up a standings race on who collected the most “silly fines,” infractions such as arriving late to a game or a cell phone going off that ultimately costs a player at least $50 and goes into a pot for team dinners.