From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: In Game 1, Bynum never gave himself an opportunity to make an impact, because he was saddled with foul trouble. Wednesday night, he solved that problem, and was arguably the best player on the floor for the Lakers. Offensively, Bynum was extremely aggressive, whether facing up on Aaron Gray with short jumpers, or working on the block. In one outstanding second quarter sequence, Bynum used a nice baby hook to score on one end, hustled back in time to gain position on Emeka Okafor for a rock solid defensive rebound, then worked his way back through the lane at the other end, fielding a terrible lob from Shannon Brown, gathering and finishing for the and-one.
From J.A. Adande, Daily Dime: Lamar Odom made things easier on the media than the Lakers have made things for themselves lately. You know, the old “Player receives award, then proves why he got it” angle. The Sixth Man of the Year giving the Lakers the boost off the bench they needed was one of the only things that worked for them offensively Wednesday night. That and Andrew Bynum. They combined for 33 of the Lakers’ points in their 87-78 Game 2 victory over the Hornets on a night Kobe Bryant scored 11 points and Pau Gasol once again couldn’t establish himself inside. So the Lakers are tied 1-1 in this first-round series even though they haven’t regained their stride, haven’t dictated how these games will be played, haven’t even given their coach a clue about what to expect from them. “Who knows?” Jackson said. “Who knows how we’re going to react to the next game?”
From Michael McNamara, Hornets 247: For three days, the focus has been on whether or not the Lakers could get Pau Gasol more involved, while few mentioned the subpar showings Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum had in the first game of this series. Pau struggled yet again in game two, but the Lakers evened the series with the Hornets due to the immensely efficient performances by Bynum and the newly crowned 6th man of the year Lamar Odom. The two combined for 33 points on 16 of 23 shooting in LA’s 87-78 victory over the Hornets. The focus for LA was clear from the start, as they made every effort to get the ball into the post on the opening possessions. Bynum got the ball early and often, as he was successful in both scoring on the low block and in getting Emeka Okafor into foul trouble. Much like the first game, Okafor picked up two fouls early on and spent almost all of the first half on the bench. While Bynum was a beast on the block, Odom provided the spark that the Lakers so desperately needed. Down by as many as eight late in the first quarter, Odom came in and scored 6 points during a 9-1 Lakers run that tied the score at 23 after one quarter.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: When the Lakers were tearing through the league after the All-Star break, piling up signature wins one after the next, their identity was grounded in defense. The rise of Andrew Bynum transformed the champs’ halfcourt D into an instrument of cruelty and suffocation. But they fell into some bad habits as the regular season drew to a close, and in Game One of their playoff series against the Hornets, their defensive performance could scarcely have been worse. Disorganized, a step slow both mentally and physically, they were embarrassed by Chris Paul and his usually unremarkable supporting crew. To even the series at one victory apiece, Phil Jackson had to spend the past few days reinstalling discipline, aggression and sound technique at the defensive end of the floor. His efforts, we saw tonight, were a success.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: It may not have looked like it, not with Pau Gasol being called “soft” every time he tried to force a shot through Aaron Gray and Trevor Ariza, or Kobe Bryant airballing shots late on his way to a 3-10 shooting night, but the Lakers have righted this ship. We don’t know how long this will last, it could be shot to pieces by Game 3, but this is a step in the right direction. For one, they forced Chris Paul to the baseline. This has been Phil Jackson’s modus operandi with point guards for years, and not only did the quick help and push force Paul out of his initial wants and needs with the ball, it effectively forced him out of the play. Because the Hornets take so long to get into their sets, two passes following the trap the ball would be in Trevor Ariza’s hands with the shot clock winding down, and Paul would be stuck on the baseline like some sort of Eddie House-type. Not the MVP-type that owned Game 1.
From John Krolik, Pro Basketball Talk: It wasn’t pretty, but the Los Angeles Lakers were able to even up their series against the New Orleans Hornets with relative ease. The Hornets were able to shock the Lakers in Game 1 because Los Angeles failed in two fundamental areas: they didn’t establish their big men on offense, and they didn’t contain Chris Paul on pick-and-rolls. On Wednesday, Phil Jackson showed why he has more rings as a head coach than he has fingers; he knows how to make adjustments. Before the game, Jackson said that the Lakers defended “more than half” of the 70 screen-rolls the Hornets ran on Sunday incorrectly, which allowed Chris Paul to run amok. In Game 2, the Lakers were able to keep Paul in check by putting bigger defenders on him (Kobe Bryant started the game on Paul, and Ron Artest even guarded him for a few possessions), putting the quicker Steve Blake on him for a stretch, and trapping him effectively to make him give up the ball:
From Ramneet Singh, Lakers Nation: Unlike Game 1 where the Lakers did not often pass the ball to their big men down low, the team was making a more of an effort to feed the ball in the paint. The Lakers’ front-court got a break when Hornets’ center Emeka Okafor had to leave the game due to two foul, and this allowed Bynum and Gasol to dominate the paint. Five of the Lakers’ first six shots were attempted in the paint, and the team’s two seven footers were demanding the ball. Nevertheless, the Lakers were not playing their best on the defensive end and most of the energy was being used trying to find shots. At the 7:00 mark of the second quarter, the Lakers held a mere one point lead, 11-10. The team was trying to get its big men more involved, but in the process players like Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest were ostracized from the offense. In addition, the Lakers had yet to find an answer for Chris Paul, who was able to break down the defense and find open shots for himself and his teammates. And as the quarter progressed, the Lakers’ offense became stagnant and the players were unable to knock down open shots. Derek Fisher had five good, open looks from the field but he only hit one shot. With the Lakers’ deep shot attempts, the Hornets were able to run in transition and catch the Lakers’ off-guard.
From Janis Carr, OC Register: For much of the Lakers’ first two playoff games, Pau Gasol has looked lost on offense, his usual dominating inside play having gone astray. The situation isn’t lost on the Lakers forward, though. He sees what everyone else sees on the court, sees what everyone else sees on the box score. He has made just four of 19 shots in two games against a much smaller New Orleans Hornets team and can’t quite figure out why. But he certainly is not feeling sorry for himself. “No, it’s not great, it’s not usual for me. But I think it’s hopeful. I can’t shoot worse than I’m shooting now,” Gasol said, finding a small bright spot. “So, if I get myself aggressive out there, watch some tape and get batter looks. it will improve. “And I can continue to contribute.”
From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: The Lakers showed up later than their fans Wednesday, a stunner on its own. But they avoided another indignity despite a mountain of ominous signs, managing to hold off the New Orleans Hornets, 87-78, in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant had unbelievably bad nights, but the Lakers still evened the best-of seven series at Staples Center. If not for Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, they’d be morosely pondering a two-game deficit on their Thursday afternoon flight to New Orleans, where Games 3 and 4 take place this weekend. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson might want to bring along some more sage to burn. The inconsistency that plagued the Lakers throughout the regular season continued to linger. Another spiritual cleansing might be in order.
From Mark Medina, LA Times: With the Staples Center crowd cheering during each swing of momentum as if it were an elimination game, Lakers forward Lamar Odom stepped onto center court. He had just accepted the award as the NBA’s sixth man of the year, but it’s conceivable that the enthusiasm also represented a boost of support to a team that played Game 1 of its first-round playoffs match-up against New Orleans with the intensity of a regular-season game in mid-January. The scene provided a good illustration of Phil Jackson’s motivational tactic Wednesday during morning shootaround that the announcement of Odom’s award a day before Game 2 served one specific purpose. “The reason that they made sure Lamar had this award was this could be the last time he plays today in front of his whole team,” Jackson said with a smile. “They want to make sure that award gets to them at the right time and to go out and prove them wrong.”