From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: As frustrating as it was to watch Paul carve up the Lakers’ D, it’s expected to some degree. CP3 is a master at keeping games on a string and his dribble alive, then picking teams apart. The Lakers have proved capable of better work against Paul during the regular season — and despite popular belief, against the pick-and-roll all season — but over (now) 5-7 games, Paul will periodically own them. Having said that, if Paul doesn’t have the ball, his ability to wreak havoc drops considerably. Upon a rewind, it was evident how easily Paul typically got the ball back upon passing off. That must stop, and two possessions illustrated how much less effective the Hornets are with somebody else running the show. Up 14-12 in the first quarter, New Orleans took the ball out after Andrew Bynum’s made free throw and Derek Fisher picked up Paul with full-court pressure. Unable to inbound to the All-Star, Emeka Okafor was forced to go in Marco Belinelli’s direction. From there, Fisher did an outstanding job denying passes back to CP3, which left Belinelli and Trevor Ariza touching the ball. Ariza ended up at the line after a fouled missed dunk. I’ll take Ariza forced to slash and create — even with the two freebies — all day over Paul controlling the action.
From Dexter Fishmore, SB Nation: For an NBA fan, there’s little that’s more irksome than seeing your team drop Game One of a playoff series at home. Not only do you find yourself immediately behind the eight ball, but the gap between games means you have to spend multiple days digesting what went wrong before the Game Two palate cleanser is served. In the case of Laker fans, they’ve spent the 48-plus hours since the end of the champs’ 100 to 108 loss to the New Orleans Hornets pondering endless variations on the following themes:
From Joon Kim, Triangle Offense: Here the Hornets show some full court pressure. The Lakers run a center opposite to counter. Usually, the center stays opposite to set a rub screen for the weakside wing. In this case the center, Andrew Bynum, has to be mindful that his weakside wing is new teammate Trey Johnson and it would be better for Bynum to go over instead of Johnson. As Bynum’s teammates start yelling at him to go Kobe’s impatience gets the better of him and he launches a three. Luckily the Lakers get an offensive rebound and end the possession with a score.
From Michael McNamara, Hornets 24/7: Yes, the Hornets played fantastic basketball for several stretches of the game, but there is much that they can improve on going into Game 2. As Chuck would say, they could “make their, make their, make their, make their free throws.” Forget free throws, maybe in this game Trevor Ariza could set a lofty goal of hitting 40% of his shots- and reach it! Does anybody really think that the Hornets best defensive player, Emeka Okafor, will only get 22 minutes again and/or grab just 2 rebounds? And how about we flip that around. Anybody expecting another 60 foot Artest heave to drop? The truth of the matter is that both teams are capable of playing better, and quite frankly, both teams are also capable of playing worse. The key to this game will come down to the adjustments that each coach makes going into this game and how well they are able to adjust as the game progresses.
From Scott Howard-Cooper, Hang Time: In both accurate assessment and understatement, Lamar Odom said the individual recognition, any individual recognition, has been long in coming. Correct. It has been a long time. As in forever. Until Tuesday, when the Lakers forward was announced as the landslide winner of Sixth Man of the Year, one of the league’s most versatile, unique unusual and most skilled players had never been singled out for official praise. Through all the important roles on very successful teams, Odom had never won an award or made an All-Star team. So the honor had special significance even for someone who has reached the ultimate heights of championships, the last two seasons with the Lakers and in summer 2010 with Team USA at the world championships. Odom did not take being named the top reserve for granted. If anything, he was deeply touched by the moment, choking up with emotion in his acceptance speech at a hotel ballroom in Los Angeles as he appeared to reference family members he has lost through the years, including an infant son.
From Janis Carr, OC Register: Lamar Odom choked back tears Tuesday as he stood at the podium in front of family members, several Lakers teammates and media. As he stared at the NBA Kia Sixth Man of the Year trophy, Odom suddenly was flooded with childhood memories, days of bringing home trophies that he would proudly show his late grandmother, Mildred Mercer. Odom’s mother, Cathy, died of colon cancer when he was 12 years old and Mercer took him in. His grandmother died in 2003. “Coming home on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and bringing that trophy home to my grandmother … she would look forward to it. So this is one more trophy that I get to bring home,” said Odom, who received 515 of a possible 585 points, including 96 of a possible 117 first-place votes from media members. Odom became the first Lakers player to receive the Sixth Man of the Year award, beating out Dallas’ Jason Terry, who was a distant second with 244 points and 13 first-pace votes.
From Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner, LA Times: How now, Pau? These have been grueling days for Pau Gasol, sautéed in almost every possible media format, second-guessed for his surprisingly ineffective playoff opener against New Orleans and blamed for everything but the destruction of the Roman Empire. So what did he offer after several minutes of probing questions from reporters Tuesday? A pleasantry. “See you guys,” he said, smiling. “Have a nice day.” It was a typical reaction from one of the NBA’s kindest players, and it came after he publicly reassured many factions (himself, his teammates, Lakers fans) that he wouldn’t be a pushover Wednesday in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series.
Lastly, I joined ESPN.com’s 5-on-5 series with the likes of Royce Young, Andrew McNeill, Joe Gerrity, and Maurice Brooks. We talk Lakers/Hornets, plus the two other Western Conference playoff series that are being played tonight. You can check that out here.