Lakers/Hornets Game 2: It’s All Even Now

Darius Soriano —  April 21, 2011

This was a game that the Lakers needed to have and they got it. If you’re looking for a single positive from another hard fought, ugly game there you go. In the playoffs it’s quite rare for things to come easy and this game was further proof of that. But the Lakers – as a team – came through tonight, evening the series at one game a piece by defeating the Hornets 87-78.

And it really was a team effort. Because on this night it wasn’t only Pau Gasol that couldn’t find his groove on offense, but Kobe Bryant as well. Neither of the Lakers’ best players could effectively crack the code of the Hornet defense, making only 5 of the 20 shots they combined to take for a grand total of 19 points. Gasol continued to get pushed off his spots by the physical Hornets’ big men, consistently getting stood up on back down attempts and cut off when he tried to drive to the hoop. The result was several forced jumpers and open complaints to the referees that went unheard with his frustration only rising as the game progressed. His only saving grace on offense was his ability to tally 5 offensive rebounds – including several big volleyball taps out in the final period – but those 5 rebounds also represented his total for the game (meaning he didn’t grab a single defensive rebound). Needless to say, Pau is still looking for anything resembling a solid game in these young playoffs.

As for Kobe, he wasn’t much better as a scorer than Gasol, though #24 did work the game in other ways. He mostly played the distributor role early and looked to get everyone involved. He quickly moved the ball within the flow of the offense, often making the simple pass on to an open teammate rather than trying to force the action. His two assists really don’t do his night justice as he easily had a handful more hockey assists in the game. And even though Kobe’s shot wasn’t falling, I was quite happy that he continued to attack the basket and looked to get shots right at the rim. The Hornets did a good job contesting his shots at the rim and Kobe had a few shots just fall off the cylinder (as well as some plays where he could have earned a whistle) and his lack of success was as much about bad luck as anything else.

Where Kobe and Pau fell short, other Lakers stepped up. Andrew Bynum had a team high 17 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He used his monstrous frame to camp at the low block, call for the ball, and do damage against Okafor and Aaron Gray. When he wasn’t banging in the post, he faced up well and shot a sweet 15 foot jumper to keep the defense honest. Lamar Odom also had a very good offensive game, pouring in 16 points of his own on 8-12 from the floor. The aggressive Odom that was missing in game 1 was back for all to see tonight, as the Lakers’ lanky lefty got back to slashing and driving his way to the rim for finishes at the cup. Several times Odom went coast to coast after securing a rebound and effectively maneuvered around whatever Hornet stood in his path to get to the bucket and finish with skill and grace. Just a splendid all around offensive game from Lamar on the night that the NBA honored him with his 6th MOY trophy. LO’s Queensbridge brother also had another very good outing. Artest simply did a bit of everything as his line of 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 each of assists/steals/blocks can attest. He played under control, attacked the offensive glass, moved well within the flow of the offense, and did so many little things that help a team win games.

Beyond those big names, the Lakers bench also played very well. Steve Blake’s return clearly helped the group as his steadiness and desire to organize the 2nd unit helped settle down a group that was erratic on Sunday. With Blake doing the majority of the ball handling, Shannon Brown was able to play more within himself (at least for the most part) and not force too many looks the way he did in game 1. Matt Barnes also benefited from the return of Blake, as his slashing off the ball was better rewarded with the ball movement that’s been missing of late. On one possession Blake had an open 15 footer but turned it down to instead hit a cutting Barnes in stride, setting him up for a short floater.

Beyond the stronger play on offense though, where the Lakers really won this game was on defense. As a team the Hornets only shot 39% while also turning the ball over 16 times. The Lakers pressured ball handlers, got into passing lanes, deflected passes, and used active hands to consistently disrupt the Hornets’ sets. The difference between the Lakers’ effort on D tonight vs. what was provided on Sunday was like night and day.

As was the Lakers defense on Chris Paul. While CP3 still had a 20 point, 9 assist outing (great numbers, really) tonight he was successfully bottled up, save for a couple of buzzer beating three pointers. The Lakers threw multiple defenders at Paul, hedged and recovered on P&R’s, and contested his every move on the court much better than in game one. This is where Kobe gets some extra credit as well, as he was great in picking up Paul early in the half court and then denying him the ball after he passed to a teammate. Sure Kobe committed some silly fouls and gave up some easy drives by pressuring a bit too much but overall #24 deserves a lot of credit for taking the challenge of guarding Paul and helping to limit him the way that he did. As does Steve Blake. Though he only saw limited minutes on Paul, I thought Blake defended him best in one on one and P&R situations. Blake successfully fought over screens, stayed connected to his body, and didn’t get blown by once when matched up with Paul. On Blake’s 1st defensive possession vs. Paul he chased him around a screen, created an isolation situation with the clock running down, and then forced a long jumper (that he contested expertly) that missed badly. Overall, Blake showed why Phil was so high on him coming back tonight.

Overall though, it was the big men that truly get the round of applause when it comes to the defensive effort. Bynum was great at controlling the paint, contesting shots at every turn and fouling when he needed to prevent an easy basket. Gasol was also much better on D tonight, sliding his feet and sticking with ball handlers for longer stretches to allow the Laker guards to recover back without getting beat or giving up uncontested jumpers. When both bigs were in the game together they not only helped slow the Hornets P&R attack but also limited the Hornets’ bigs to 21 points on 22 shots, creating a big hole in their offense that was sorely needed. Just a great overall showing by LA’s trio of bigs tonight.

In the end, this game wasn’t pretty but it was a win. The physicality and low scoring nature of the game made it very difficult to watch in stretches but by coming out on top I can’t complain at all. And while there are still several things to improve going into Friday’s contest, I must say I’m encouraged that things will get better. I have faith that Gasol will start to turn his game around and I’m hopeful that the Lakers can continue to build on their success against Paul and the P&R. One win down, three more to go.

Darius Soriano

Posts

35 responses to Lakers/Hornets Game 2: It’s All Even Now

  1. Kobe: 3-10
    Pau: 2-10
    Fisher: 2-9

    And no one on the Lakers scored more than 16 points – and we still won?

    Good heavens, I think we have an actual team.

  2. Scratch that: 17 points. (Thanks, Bynum!)

  3. Drew had 17, but yes, point well taken. I actually thought Kobe played very well tonight. He was CP4′s primary defender, so a lot of his available energy had to be expended on defense. Not only that, but he drove the lane several times, drew contact (and not contact of the jump straight up variety), and didn’t get rewarded with FTs, although the bigs did clean up a couple of those misses. I was very satisfied with the way the team played. Pau will eventually right the ship, Drew is showing no ill effects from his injury, Barnes looked like Barnes, Blake settled everyone down, led the team in assists, and did a great job on CP4 aka LeFloppe (Cajun spelling), and the Queensbridge twins look like they’re locked in.

  4. It looks like Bynum og Artest might be the toughest match ups for the Hornets. They just cannot handle their strength. Really love how Artest is bullying his way to a lot of rebounds.

  5. I hate to keep beating this drum… But I watched the replay on FSN and Rambis during the halftime show said whatni have been saying. Gasol needs to face up and use his length and quickness. He isn’t strong enough to back in against most NBA players. I wish Kurt was still one of our assistant coaches.

  6. Last night was the right attitude the Lakers need toshow. That will probably get it done against the Hornets over the next few games, with the chance to step up the execution for the Mavs (as it seems).

    I liked that Jackson switched up his rotation a bit, subbing Odom for Gasol instead of Bynum early for example. Also loved Blake in his limited minutes on Paul.

    As far as Gasol goes, he’s earned my support since he’s been here, so I won’t start to bash him now. And who knows, players slump for different reasons. He could just have hit a dry spell, could have physical problems he won’t admit, players have also suddenly started to play badly when something went wrong in their personal lives. No need to speculate though, I just have faith in him getting back on track during the playoffs.

    Still, I did have a laugh about these two twitter messages posted on ESPN:

    thechrispalmer: Last time Kobe had a triple single Pau was the best Gasol brother.

    J.A. Andande: That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a technical foul for imitating a Rockette.

  7. once the refs called two quick fouls on the Hornets to start the game, i knew there was no way they would let New Orleans win that game, soooo obvious.

  8. @7. I corrected your spelling for you. It’s written “two quick fouls” and not “to quick fouls.” I didn’t want you to look like an anonymous jackass. You’re welcome.

    Yes, the NBA soooo obviously wanted the Lakers to win the game that they assigned Steve Javie’s crew (the most anti-homer crew in the NBA) to work the game, and they didn’t disappoint. Just look at that FT disparity! The Lakers shot 22 FTs, including four that they shot in the final minute when the Hornets fouled them intentionally. And the Hornets only shot 32 FTs, and for most of the second half they had shot ONLY TWICE AS MANY FTs as the Lakers had, despite the Lakers shooting many more shots in the paint. A fair officiating crew would have let NOLA shoot 50 FTs and the Lakers only 22. That would have been more fair.

  9. If anyone has the skills I’d love to see a video montage of CP3 flopping in that game. He spent a LOT of time on the floor, especially in the 4th.

  10. which is exactly why New Orleans shot ten additional foul shots

  11. Thanks for the recap Darius. Should the last phrase be ” One win down, Fifteen more to go”… Lets go lakers. I still believe that this series will end in five games.

  12. Rewatching the game in better quality now.

    Blake gets on the court for the first time with about 2 minutes on the clock in the first, and really defends the next pick and roll well.

    Just as the screener approaches, he blitzes CP3 enough to make him retreat and protect his dribble. This happens a couple of times, which makes Hornets abandon the PNR, and Paul passes to Landry at the top of the key, he commits an uncalled travel, then drives a little to the left, jumps into the air and throws a messy pass back to Paul.

    Paul now only has 5 seconds left on the clock, and he ends up shooting a tough step back jumper that misses!

    This is great defense on CP3! And it begins with good communication from Pau and Odom, who yells out the screen in time for Blake to perform his blitz. Odom also covers the sideline well on the second pick.

    Very different from the weak and uncommited defense I saw in game 1.

  13. With 6.32 to play in the second Blake find himself in the same situation Fisher was in in game 1. Paul has him riding his back at the top of the key. Instead of himping him to a foul, Blake manages to slide around Paul and make him pass it back out.

    I really like Blakes heady defense in this game.

  14. To be fair to Paul, he is a relatively small guy at 6’0” 175 lbs. So I mean its understandable that he falls down every time someone brushes up against him.

    It was an ugly game, but the Lakers got the W, and that is all that matters. I’m confident that Pau will play better, he at least showed a lot more effort tonight than on Sunday, especially in the fourth quarter.

  15. I couldn’t believe how dirty Paul was. Cheap shots and BLATANT flops. And how about the play where Kobe got the tech and Pau stuck his hip out and then literally kicked his leg out to trip or kick Kobe as he was trying to come down next to him. I don’t blame Kobe for getting a T. When they’re calling touch fouls on you but you’re getting hammered by 3 guys every time you drive without a call, it can get very frustrating. You’d think the best player in the world at home would get at least a fair deal.

    Also, for all of those who complain Pau doesn’t get enough touches, I really hope the saw this game. The team obviously made it a point of emphasis to get him touches in the post but every time they’d pass it in to him he’d look to get rid of it like they were playing hot potato. And all of those “aggressive” drives were fake aggression. He was just trying to draw fouls; not take it hard to the hoop and score. I just can’t even comprehend Pau not being embarrassed with constantly being a little b!tch on the court. And the most frustrating part is we all know he’s capable of so much more.

  16. I still never quite had the confidence I was expecting while watching the game and felt like the moxie was still a bit lacking. Drew was clearly the reason for the W last night. RonRon and LO played another very good game, and I’m definitely agreeing with Aaron that the Bugs have absolutely no answer for Ron.

    It is a bit frustrating to see the offense go stagnant; especially when we have the exact formula to score on these guys. Getting the ball in early opens up cutting lanes and open jumpers. It’s a good thing we can pull out these ugly Ws, especially in the second season, but I would have enjoyed a dominating performance after the egg in G1.

    Still a bit worrying to think the Hornets can barely hit a free throw and Okafor was in heavy foul trouble again and we didn’t win it going away, but I still expect to play better.

    Regardless, and later than expected, but cross that number 16 out.

  17. 9. Ryan, according to Reggie Miller, Paul is 6’1″ or 6’2″. Then again, he called Odom 7’1″ and Kobe 6’7″. I think Paul looks more 5’10″, which makes his stellar play more amazing. I’m simply in awe of how he closes out quarters (2 buzzer beaters this game).

    I know Kobe utilizes the pump fake and jump into a defender routine, but this is getting ridiculous. I think there was one play where Jarrett Jack literally jumped into someone and got the foul call. Kobe really has to be careful not to foul the 3 point shot because he is playing a lot of free-safety when he is not guarding someone like CP3 on the ball, so of course he has to come at the shooter with a lot of momentum. Like every high school coach preaches, never foul a shooter!

    As to Pau’s malaise, I have no explanation. Wish he had a little Marc Gasol’s nastiness in him (although Pau is the superior post player). I think Pau openly wishes David West were playing instead of Landry because West is less physical.

  18. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) April 21, 2011 at 7:46 am

    For the record, last night I filed a missing persons report for Gasol’s balls.

    I’m glad we won and the non-stars of the team really stepped up their game. Bynum is making me look like an idiot right and left with his play after I was one of those thinking we should trade him for Carmelo.

    But let’s get real here for a second. We’re playing the Hornets.

    Without David West.

    And in two games Gasol has yet to reach double figures in EITHER points or rebounds.

    While being guarded primarily by Carl Landry and Aaron Gray.

    Right now, some of the other contenders are watching how passive Pau has been since he took a Mbenga karate chop and thinking, “Oh, so that’s all it takes?”

    Perhaps this is an annual rite of spring that we wonder about Gasol’s spine, but I’m deeply concerned that we’re now in the playoffs and this Laker team still doesn’t look like a contender let alone the two time defending champion.

  19. Bynum, Odom, and Artest won us the game, just being aggressive. Kobe was channeling his inner Fisher and delivering with the Intagibles, forget what the stats say. Pau still needs to produce more, but I liked what I saw last night. Steve Blake returning I think was a major turning point, just slowing down the tempo of the trigger happy bench (or just Brown).

    I never say anything but nice things about Chris Paul, but all of that flopping was awful. And Okafor got what he deserved after those illegal screens in Game 1. On to Game 3

  20. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) April 21, 2011 at 8:00 am

    @18

    I don’t want to leave out what Barnes and Blake brought us. Bynum, Odom and Artest all have great games, but our bench really contributed when we brought them in.

    They were a force to be reckoned with out there with their energy and change to an up-tempo pace when they checked in.

  21. @Dude .. off the charts funny. (anon)

    Bynum … will never be quick…but he is recognizing things sooner…and sooner… His game “IQ” has a tremendous upside.

  22. I’m a big believer in regression to the mean if there’s a big enough sample. That’s why Pau’s struggles in some ways encourages me. He’s got a proven history. If he’s struggling now, it should mean he’ll bounce back very well later.

    Lakers have a larger margin of error against NO than they do against other teams. This is a good time for Pau to struggle and to let him and the team figure it out. Why have him bang hard now and wear down later. I’d rather he not take too much of a beating now but be ready to go hard against another team that have more bigger bodies than NO does.

  23. I keep thinking of that Houston series two seasons ago, complete with a speedy PG and Carl “the Pau killer” Landry… I’m praying the Lakers aren’t breathing a sigh of relief going into NOLA–the last thing you want is a 7-game series with the physical, slap-happy NOLA Bugs (a.k.a. David Stern’s club).

    Please, no more wins for the Bugs…

  24. @20 On saving Pau for later…

    That strategy has a backside in the PO, as sloppy play means more games (assuming LAL will win at all, which after all I still DO assume in the first round).

    So you could also argue, that you go all out, try to finish it up asap and then get a few more days of rest!?

  25. Things I liked from a game that was far from satisfying to watch (other than getting a much needed W).

    Lakers effort. I think Artest, L.O. Bynum (can’t say enough about those guys last night), Barnes and Blake’s positive production was a direct result of this. As others have noted, Pau and Kobe had sub par games, but the effort was there.

    Kobe didn’t try and take over. This was huge for the other team members. ‘The other guys’ won this game and that has to be a huge confidence booster.

    A couple things that concern me a bit – I think Blake needs more minutes than Fish. I appreciate the intagnibles he brings, but right now Fish is getting killed on very tangibles (though I had to laugh when he was guarding Ariza – talk about a slap in the face for Trevor…)

    Brown – talk about regression to the mean… I cringe when he has the ball.

    The Lakers still seem out of synch. If they were playing a better team (or perhaps even a fully healthy Hornets team), I am not confident they wouldn’t be down 0-2 right now. I’m just hoping they can ‘steal’ a game in N.O. and that is not where the defending champs should be in the first round.

  26. Not trying to defend Pau but it was a weirdly offciated game. Kobe doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt anymore but Bynum got some calls that if I were a Hornets fan I’d be furious about. Conversely though, the refs are REALLY letting guys play physical with Gasol, and really coming straight down on his arms.

    I don’t know if it’s a reputation thing on why some people get calls and others don’t (Kobe is a flailer, Gasol has weak hands) but I do find the officiating strange.

  27. Game 2 had to have been the only game ever that Artest took the most shots on the team and I wish that the Lakers had gone to him more. The hornets have absolutely no answer for him. Artest has been one of the few bright spots for the Lakers in this quite ugly series.

  28. A win’s a win, but it was tough to struggle through a second consecutive subpar game for Pau. Kobe even played poorly too. Together, they combined for 19 points and 8 rebounds for the entire game. They also shot 25% (5-20) from the floor. It’s amazing that the Lakers could pull out a victory with such terrible play from their two stars. The real key, though was defense. Check it out:

    http://sportstatistics.blogspot.com/2011/04/nba-playoffs-night-five.html

  29. What the hell was up with that halftime show?

  30. Yes, a fugly game 2 no doubt. This is what happens in the playoffs, as Fish so clearly reminded us all during his post game interview.

    Couldn’t be more encouraged by the way Drew has stepped up since the all star break and during this young series. It’s like a different spirit is inhabiting his body! Has he been taking mean lessons from Kendrick Perkins?

    And LO – oh, his well-deserved sixth man award speaks for itself, I guess. Where would the Lakers be this year with him?

  31. As Fish said, a win is a win.

    I see someone stated that the team seems out of sync…I think it is because for the last month or so at least 2 people are missing or unable to play. Unlike the beginning of the season, when everyone was healthy etc (outside of Bynum). I think more full practices with the whole team will help that greatly.

  32. Teams that win ugly win titles.

  33. “mySynergySports: @Lakers yielded 69.2% FG (1.47 PPP) on the Pick and Roll in Game 1, but only 45.5% FG (0.71 PPP) in Game 2.”

    much better. Good job guards and Drew too for better hedging on picks.

  34. #33. Agreed, those are great numbers. I thought all the guards were excellent at really sprinting back to recover on Paul when the Bigs slid with him and shadowed his movement with solid angles. I think Gasol and LO deserve some credit here too (along with Bynum) as they also contributed to this success.

  35. Got back from the Bulls-Pacers game. Bit underwhelming to say the least, although it did get interesting at the end.

    I think it’s hard to truly have an appreciation for how bad the refs are until you’re at the game. The level of suck tonight from the refereeing crew was astounding.

    The one thing I was really impressed with: Conseco Fieldhouse. In terms of the perks and suites they’re behind other stadiums, but I love the way it was built so that the seats are right on top of the court. When you go to the United Center, if you’re in the cheap seats, you might as well bring binoculars. Today we were pretty high up and I could still see everything perfectly – I could see the plays developing, every touch foul, read players’ facial expressions and everything.

    I feel like more stadiums should take that into account when designing their seating. Conseco is nothing impressive otherwise, but the fan experience was great because of how we’re right on top of the court. Every play was crystal clear; I could watch every offensive set develop far clearer than on TV, which hasn’t been the case in other games I’ve gone to. I’m not sure where Staples ranks in that sense.