Lakers/Hornets Game 5: One More To Go

Darius Soriano —  April 27, 2011

Before the game, I mentioned that tonight – like it or not – questions would be answered tonight. Suffice to say, we like the answers. The Lakers came out ready to play top shelf basketball and by doing so took down the Hornets 106-90 to take a 3-2 lead in the series. The Lakers are now on the verge of advancing and it only took them 5 contests to bring forth their best game of the series.

Through the first 12 minutes, however, I’m not sure any of us thought this game would turn out this way. The Hornets came out on fire, making 13 of their first 16 attempts from the floor and dropping a 32 spot on the Lakers in the first period. Every jumper either went through the hoop cleanly or tortured the home fans by bouncing on every part of the rim before dropping through. Trevor Ariza was especially deadly as a scorer, hitting all 4 of his field goals (including 2 three pointers) for 10 quick points. The Laker wings barely rotated to Ariza when he caught the ball and he made them pay the way he did so many of the Lakers’ opponents back in 2009 when he donned that purple and gold #3. Meanwhile, Chris Paul was equally brilliant as a distributor racking up 8 assists in that first frame. Paul, as he has for most of this series, controlled the tempo and tenor of the game by running the P&R to perfection and getting into the open court to break down the slow transitioning Laker D.

On the Laker side, they were able to stay close but only barely. With Kobe clearly not 100%, the Lakers pounded the ball inside to Gasol and Bynum to try and establish their inside game. The Laker bigs combined to take 13 first quarter shots, making 6 of them and scoring 14 points in the process. Clearly their strategy was to control the game by dominating the paint but with the Hornets shooting 81% early on, the strategy wasn’t really working as the Lakers plodding style wasn’t able to keep pace with the hot shooting Hornets.

However, at the start of the 2nd period that started to change. The Laker reserves came into game and turned the tempo around. Blake and Barnes started to pressure the ball, Shannon Brown – though making some questionable decisions in the early part of his stint – hit a couple of big threes, and slowly the Hornets started to regress to the mean by missing shots. Before you knew it, the Hornets 9 point lead was down to a single point and the Lakers were in position to take control of the game. All they needed was one last spark to push them over the top. Re-enter Kobe Bryant.

After taking his normal rest at the end if the 1st quarter, Kobe came back in determined to make his mark on the game. No longer would he simply stand on the weak side while the ball went into the post. He wanted into the action and he was going to bully his way into the fray if need be. Then, like a scene from 2006, Kobe put his mark on the game the doubts about his ankle out of everyone’s mind.

After that spectacular play, the Lakers and Kobe had a newfound energy. Suddenly, the defense was even better and the offense ran more smoothly. Kobe took the ball into his hands and was aggressive attacking the hoop, pouring in 12 of his 19 points in the period. And when Kobe  wasn’t attacking, the ball moved crisply around the perimeter and into the post to big men that had found their rhythm earlier in the game. What resulted was a 31 point quarter for the Lakers to only a 19 point output for the Hornets.

In the 2nd half, these trends only became more established. The Laker bigs continued their dominance inside by gobbling up rebounds on both ends of the floor and limiting the Hornets ability to do any real damage inside. And as the numbers for the game detail, the Lakers simply dominated the inside. I mean, the Lakers won the rebounding battle 42-25, the offensive rebounding margin was 15-3, and the second chance point battle 22-2. Where Bynum (6-11, 18 points) and Gasol (6-12, 16 points) combined for 34 points, Okafor and Landry only contributed 13 combined. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

But it wasn’t just the Lakers starting bigs that were efficient, Ron and Fisher also had themselves very good games. Ron continued his excellent two-way play by scoring 11 points of his own and playing very good D on Ariza after Trevor had that hot 1st period. And sure, Ron ceded some open jumpers to Trevor but he also cut off his drives and made him settle for may off balance pull up jumpers and awkward shots off the dribble when he couldn’t get all the way to the rim. At one point Ariza missed 6 of 7 shots and a lot of that had to do with the job that Ron did on him. Meanwhile, Fisher was simply excellent in this game. 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting for Fisher, not to mention some solid defense on Paul when put on an island in isolation (not something we expect, that’s for sure).

In the end though, what I liked most about this game was that the team effort really did come from patience and discipline. In a game where the Hornets jumped out quickly due to their outside shooting, the Lakers stuck to their plan by going inside and slowly wore the Hornets down. When an energy boost was needed, the reserves came in and played aggressively and outperformed their counterparts on from the Hornets bench. And when the bench went out, Kobe came in and picked up the entire team by performing at a level that was completely unexpected considering how he looked after game 4 and in the early part of this game. As a team, the Lakers played smart, physical basketball and treated the fans to great win in the process. After the first quarter, they played excellent defense and dominated the backboards thoroughly. They really did provide a complete performance on a night that they needed it. Hopefully, they can do the same on Thursday to close out the series.

Darius Soriano

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28 responses to Lakers/Hornets Game 5: One More To Go

  1. Laker offensive rebounding rate: 41%
    Hornet offensive rebounding rate: 10%

    Pretty much tells the whole story.

  2. Today’s game really made me nostalgic for the old Kobe. Made me a little sad to realize he’s getting up there in years.

    It was also a perfect illustration of the type of game Kobe completely, but the box score will only reflect his 9 points.

    I watched this entire game intently – and it didn’t turn until his big dunk on Okafur. He went straight to the hoop numerous times – straight to the hole and then hit a couple nice jumpers.

    The Lakers finally got rolling after that and Kobe is largely responsible, despite the box score showing him playing only 28 minutes.

  3. The game shows some semblance of the championship team of 2009 & 2010 but we are still far away from that level we have plenty of room to improve.

    This Laker team is like a Diesel Engine that needs time before it heats up and run its motor perfectly.

  4. The lesson of the series thus far is, it’s hell to get old. If everyone’s in their prime there’s only two Hornets that belong on the same floor as the Lakers and one of them isn’t suited up. The way everyone is distributed along the timeline, it’s a contest.

  5. kobe’s ankle injury was a real blessing in disguise.. not being 100% meant not being able to chuck those contested off balance fade aways that kobe loves.. the injury forced kobe – who to his credit recognized his limitations – to play within himself and within the flow of the game.

  6. About the transition D, it really puzzles me that a veteran team is being so slow to recover. Granted that the athleticism isn’t there as it used to be, but as you get older you get a better feel for the game. The best way to help your transition D in a veteran team is: pick your spots when shooting and avoid long rebounds.

    The Lakers usually have two bigs down low (or one in the elbow) who crash the boards. When we’re shooting a corner three pointer, if we miss and the rebound is long, we’ll have a wing and one big behind the offense immediatly. This means that the other big can’t go for the offensive rebound when he is in the elbow but rather run back to protect the paint. This is something that I would like to see the Lakers improve and maybe, if the Blazers and Mavs go seven, something they can practice while we wait for the outcome of that series.

  7. gxs

    Kobe actually played 29 minutes and scored 19 points. His numerous battles and elongated seasons are definitely catching up to him, but he still amazes. His ability to come off of the sprained ankle and be as effective as he was is a testimate to his greatness. I understand his drive to get THIS championship because it accomplishes so much for him and his lore. He is willing to do whatever he has to in order to WIN NOW!!! His dunk on Okafor woke up the crowd and the team, but his second dunk cemented that the Lakers were there to win. His foul on Okafor was just as important because he let NO know that he was tired of them beating up Pau. If no one else chose to stand up, Kobe would. Both teams played physical, but the Lakers brought their inner Celtic out tonight. Let’s wrap this up and get on to the next series before anyone else gets hurt.

  8. These series are based on match-ups. And as we all are seeing match-ups create problems for everyone. Memphis matches up well against San Antonio because they can neutralize Timmy with either Gasol or Zack. The pick and roll has always been the Lakers crytonite and NO runs it to perfection. The key is to enforce your will on your competition. The Lakers did that last night by pounding the ball inside even though they were losing. They stuck to their guns and ended up frustrating the Hornets. Our bigs have to attack Okafor because he likes to block shots. If you come in soft he will block your shot. You have to get into his body to be effective. Hopefully we remember that Thursday. As far as San Antonio goes, they’re toast.

  9. Favorite play of the game was Ron’s one on one D on Paul with the block as Paul drove towards the hoop. I think it came in the fourth…

  10. “It was like he had his Afro back,” said Shannon Brown.

  11. I noticed that Pau really had his elbows out to clear space after grabbing a rebound. It was nice to see him aggressive like that.

  12. @Busboys4me;

    I get the point of your comment ” Lakers brought their inner Celtic out tonight.” but please find a better way of putting it than using the “C” word in praising a Laker performance. (Joke)

  13. i thoght Blake played very well yesterday. Especially picking CP3 up and turning him early. Also-he has been taking and hitting the open catch-n-shoot 3

  14. @Skyhook33

    “They brought their inner Detroit Bad Boys out tonight”. That better?

  15. Great energy from the bench in that second quarter. I love how the entire team was very disciplined about running their sets for most of the game. Very focused and locked in.

  16. Rim Fish rim Fishy rim April 27, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Great game last night.
    Not without its scary/tense moments though. It was good to see the squad fend off the Hornets’ mini-runs in the 3rd and early 4th quarter.

    I’m not normally a sadist, but I did rather enjoy watching Okafor’s sad abused face all night with that “I’m gonna tell Mom” expression – especially after he got his 5th foul and ran over to the bench.
    It reminded me of Red from the movie Friday when Deebo took his bike.
    I almost felt bad for him… almost.

    Game 6 will be tough, but LA needs to pull it out.
    Momentum will be key, especially if BellyNelly gets hot with his jumpers again. The NOLA crowd will be a factor.

    Lakers need to continue to channel their inner Deebo and take care of business!

  17. I loved the energy the team showed in the second half last night. But, the first half was horrible. I swear, this team is going to send me to the ER with a heart attack.

  18. Great points Darius.

    I didn’t have a chance to go through the comments from the game thread, but did anyone notice that the Lakers wore black shoes at home? They may not have worn black shoes at home all year.

  19. I really enjoyed Bynum’s offensive foul against Okafor in the 4th quarter, backing him down hard in the low post.

    When the referee called the foul Bynum turned in feigned amazement and said, “Was there someone there?”

    Okafor got beat up, a lot, last night. Good to see the Lakers giving as good as they got.

  20. #18. I did notice that. Kobe had the black shoe/black sock combo that I don’t recall seeing all season. That said, I rarely do notice such things. The other day someone told me that JR Smith and Rajon Rondo wear Kobe’s shoes and I had no clue.

  21. Is it fair to say the Lakers talent hierarchy especially when it comes to the playoffs reads like this…

    1. Kobe
    2. Bynum
    3. Gasol
    4. Artest
    5. Lamar

    This isn’t a knock on Lamar. It’s really a testament to Artest. The playoffs are about muscle and defense, which fits RonRon just fine. After two season with the Lakers we are finally seeing Ron Artest the offensive weapon that he has been on every team before heading to Los Angeles.

  22. @18
    I did notice that everyone was wearing black shoes. But then I’m a woman with a fetish for footwear. What’s your excuse? :p

    I’m gradually becoming more and more impressed with the way our bench plays, by the way. Either they match up very well against the Hornets’ second unit, or they’ve just step things up a notch, but they were really bringing both energy and points last night.

  23. Hahaha. Besides the Xs and Os, I am always interested in the uniforms and design aspects of sports, including the design of the courts. It’s too bad that HDTV isn’t good enough to show us the details of the shoes during the game.

  24. #21. Aaron, how about we don’t make definitive statements or come to long term conclusions after 5 games, eh? The Hornets are a team that has matched up well with Gasol and Lamar, throwing big bodies at them whenever possible and shrinking the court to try and take away LA’s bigs. It’s true enough that Ron is absolutely killing Belinelli but that’s to be expected considering he outweighs him by at least 35 pounds and has several inches on him. As for Bynum, yes, he’s been great. His size advantage and strength has been crucial to the Lakers inside game. But again, there will be match ups down the line where I’m sure we’ll see Gasol and LO outperform Drew simply because the D is skewed that way.

    For a guy that always talks about match ups and talent being the biggest factors in determining the winner, you seem really quick to come to conclusions that don’t really consider those things.

  25. Darius,
    I am not making judgements after five games. I’m making judgements after watching these guys for 500 to 1200 games. When Bynum has been healthy and in shape fornthe last three years he has been our second best player behind Kobe. I’m a big fan of guys who can play on both ends of the court. Gasol is a nice offensive player but he is at best a mediocre defender. That’s half the game right there. Lamar also is just an average defender and has been known to be let’s just say up and do pen in the postseason when he isn’t playing the Suns. But that list isn’t a knock on either or those guys. They are very good payers. The Lakers just have five very good players. They say it takes two years to learn the triangle? It took RonRon every day of those two years. And his defense is something that just screams playoff basketball.

    Re: Matchups
    I’m not basing my talent rankings based on these match ups or even these playoffs. Or else I would have Artest over Gasol. I mean the match ups should prove Gasol being number one. He has a guys five inches shorter guarding him. And nobody on the Hornets should be able to stay in front of Lamar.

  26. HDTV can show details, if they zoom in closely enough and the wearer of the shoe is kind enough to hold still long enough for us to get a close look (or if you pause the DVR), but that rarely happens. I did notice a couple of games ago that Kobe’s black shoes have snake scale finish… a small detail that I thought was a nice touch. I wouldn’t be the least surprised if he requested that either, he seems to like that Black Mamba nickname.

    I hope they take the black shoe with them to New Orleans. I’m trying to figure out how Lamar dopes his usual pre-game ritual of writing on them now that they’re black, and they didn’t show his shoes at all last night so I couldn’t see.

  27. I gave those same rankings before the season began two years ago and people thought I was crazy. Now it appears I’m crazy like a fox. Of course last year Bynum was hurt and Artest was clueless on offense so I was dead wrong. And yes you’re right Artest won’t have this kind of match up advantage on other series… But he will help a lot more on opt he defensive end.

  28. Limiting Chris Paul to only four assists after the first quarter was huge, because he’s had at least 14 in both Hornets wins. Getting all five starters plus Odom in double-figures in scoring meant that the Hornets didn’t know who to guard down the stretch, and the offense just kept on rolling. Check out the stats:

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