Lakers/Hornets Game 6: Closing Out With Defense

Phillip Barnett —  April 28, 2011

In Darius’ Preview and Chat, he opened up with a discussion on how difficult it is to close out teams on the road in the playoffs, and brought up this comment from The Dude Abides:

The Lakers of the Pau Gasol era are 7-1 in road closeout games, including the last five in a row. The only loss was Game 6 of the 2009 2nd Round in Houston. Since then, they won Game 6 in Denver, Game 5 in Orlando, Game 6 in OKC, Game 4 in Utah, and Game 6 in Phoenix.

After tonight’s 98-80 victory, the Lakers can add the New Orleans Hornets to the list of teams that the Lakers effectively closed out on the road during the current Kobe/Pau administration. And much like the majority of the aforementioned games, the Lakers won tonight’s game on the strength of their defense. Only allowing 80 points to a Chris Paul led offense is fantastic, but it still doesn’t really tell the story of how dominant the Laker defense was tonight. With Paul, they consistently cut off his penetrating and passing lanes, kept all of the Hornets off of the offensive glass, and made them a collective team of jump shooters. Take a look at the Hornets’ shot chart and the number of mid-range jumpers that they were forced to take.

shot chart

Without anyone knocking down shots for the Hornets, it became increasingly easier for the Lakers to defend Paul, who easily had his quietest game of the series with 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. The Lakers bigs did a great job of hedging high enough to prevent Paul from driving, but stayed far enough away so that Paul wouldn’t blow by them. The Lakers perimeter defenders did a great job of fighting over screens with enough speed so that that Pau and Bynum spent as little time as possible isolated on Chris Paul. Kobe mentioned that he looked tired in his post-game presser, and a lot of his fatigue might have come with the fact that Paul saw five different defenders during the course of the game. Fisher, Blake, Kobe, Artest, and Brown all spent at least a few possessions on Paul.

On the offensive end, the Lakers got great production from their big men. 48 points, 28 rebounds, eight assists, and four blocks from Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Bynum had a spectacular night on his own with 18 points and 12 rebounds, with eight of his rebounds coming on the offensive end. ‘Drew has been consistently knocking down a 15-footer, and his post game is looking more refined daily. He’s been playing as comfortable on the floor as we’ve seen him since early in the 2008 season before his knee injury. Pau’s jumper was falling as well, and he effectively attacked the rim when he had favorable matchups against Aaron Gray and DJ Mbenga. Lamar Odom might have had the quietest 14 points as a Laker. Save for a couple of swooping layups, it’s hard to remember many of his points.

On the perimeter, Kobe had a fantastic third quarter, scoring 13 of his 24 in that 12-minute stretch. His shot wasn’t falling at a high rate, so he compensated for his off shot by attacking the rim, finishing 10-for-10 from the free throw line. We also need to give some credit to Ron Artest, who might have only had four points, but he provided five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one of his signature bicep flexes after his steal on Chris Paul and the subsequent put back. Artest also had the assist to Kobe’s three in the third that moved the Lakers lead back up from seven to 10 points, and really took the crowd out of the game.

Overall, the Lakers played a fantastic game on both ends of the floor. They swarmed the Hornets on the defensive end and played inside-out on the offensive end. New Orleans played admirably. They were undersized, undermanned, and were underdogs in every respect, but they were scrappy enough to make this an interesting series. Chris Paul was outstanding and I was thoroughly impressed with rookie coach Monty Williams’ ability to game plan for a Phil Jackson led Lakers. They had a great season considering their injury issues and their expectations coming into the game. As far as the next round goes, Dallas is up on Portland by nine points  close to midway through the third quarter. A Dallas win would end this series and move them forward to see the Lakers in the second round. A Portland win would send the series to a decisive seventh game. Either way, the Lakers’ next game will be this Monday.

Phillip Barnett

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31 responses to Lakers/Hornets Game 6: Closing Out With Defense

  1. I see Fish! I see the rim! Fish! Rim! Fish! Rim! Fishy-rim! :D
    Man, I love that commercial.

  2. A display of the winning ways of a champion.

    Cannot say enough about how good Bynum was, and how much his level of play on offense destroys opponent’s schemes and defenses.

    Add in his defense, and that intimidation factor, and he was simply dominant this series.

    Looking forward to the next series.

  3. I’ve said this a few times already, but I think it bears repeating: in close-out games, the Lakers smell blood in the water, and Kobe is the alpha shark :D

  4. Time to start breaking down the Lakers-Mavericks second round series.

  5. Chuck is way off base. Bynum and Gasol OWN both Chandler and Haywood. Drew outweighs Chandler by 40 pounds.

  6. Any idea as to the 2nd round schedule?

    Texas Rob – are you going to the games in Dallas?

  7. As usual, over the course of a series, the Lakers’ coaches make the adjustments and the players’ talent and size wears the opponent down. This team is built to win in the playoffs, and always has been.

    Please understand, I’m not saying this is what happened at all, but: if Kobe had played a game just like Chris Paul played with his team facing elimination, we’d spend the next five years hearing about how he “tanked the game” and “quit on his team”.

  8. @7. Phil made a point in the press conference that was pretty explanatory. He said that the team doesn’t get a chance to defend many pick and rolls in practice, as it’s not a really important part of the Laker offense. So as each series wears on, the team gradually improves its pick and roll defense. That game tonight was like a slow-motion chokehold for45 minutes :D

  9. I for one wouldn’t take Dallas lightly. Although they had homecourt, many going into the series saw them as the underdog and they responded mightily. They do have a super-duper star in dirk that is going to be different than any player that the Lakers have played in the playoffs in the last 10 years, and unlike NO have a bunch of good shooters.

    Lakers can’t bring their C game against Dallas, like they have against other teams this year. I like the matchup better than Portland (who with Gerald Wallace would present all sorts of difficulties for us), but this is no Utah from last year.

    Although, why did Chuck keep saying Fisher would guard Kidd. Fisher is best running around screens and chasing shooters (cough terry cough), and its more likely that if Kidd torches us (as he did once already this season) that Kobe or Ron spend time on him the most.

    Lets let the guys rest up, and hopefully people pick against the Lakers, cuz they haven’t played with a chip on their shoulder in almost a year, and that would be an element that would be nice to see.

    And by the way… CP3 is a warrior man. That guy is so good its silly, no reason to insult him in any way. The guy had like 9 assist through three quarters, NO just couldn’t grab a rebound. I’d take that guy on my team over any other PG in the league every day of the week (including Rose, Rondo, Williams, and even DWade (who is the heats de facto PG).)

  10. FYI, does everyone know the team that Bill Plaschke picked to come out of the East? Dingdingding! Orlando :D

    He even said they would make the Finals after they were already down 3-1 in the Atlanta series. What a tool. All you need to know about Plaschke can be summed up in this video:
    http://leisureblogs.chicagotribune.com/behindbeijing/2008/08/kevin-eats-at-t.html

  11. 6, Mon-Wed-Fri-Sun-Tu-Thu-Sat

    #1 & 2 are at 7:30, 3 @ 630, 4 @ 1230… PDT.

  12. I know when the Lakers are clicking because they start playing really..pretty basketball. The Lakers displayed some of that pretty basketball in the second half and I am so relieved to see a game like this from them.

    Also, I hate to bring race into the equation, but would Gasol be called soft if he were black with tattoo sleeves on both arms?

    I bring this is as I am genuinely curious in your feedback. I just read Adande’s piece and he once again alluded to Gasol’s “manhood”.

    You don’t win 2 NBA titles (one against D. Howard), and a gold medal with a “soft” center. What do you want Gasol to do? Bark out insults a la KG? Scowl all the time like Kendrick Perkins?

    In this series at least, I was dumbfounded by how the refs let him get pushed around under the hoop. Last time I checked, you’re not allowed to box out with your arms (Looking at you Carl Landry).

  13. LOL @ his dudeness.

  14. game 4 looks like a loss based on the start time

  15. Classic D-Fish. His defense on CP3 was excellent…

  16. LOL @ video by el duderino.

    Q, I don’t think so. The Lakers only struggle when the Sunday game is at home.

    Before we jump into our series with the Mavs, who do you think is a better fit to knock OKC out? Memphis or SA?

  17. I really don’t think we should legitimize Plaschke by mentioning his name. But okay. The problem is he is a guy who doesn’t know sports and can’t write. Besides that he is great at what he does.

    I love Kobe Bryant. I am biased. He does it for me. We have this young, smart, nice, new, charming 23 year old talented big man right here. Many organizations would sell their soul for that or worse. Here we hardly notice. On the Clippers he was a franchise savior… Here he is just our sixth man. In Memphis he was that skinny niche soft perimeter PF with that athleticism. Here he is known as the best PF in the NBA. Around the world he was known as that two way star that was one of the best defensive weapons of his era. Here he is that guy who replaced Trevor Ariza.

    It’s all that way though because of Kobe Bryant. You could argue he has made many of a career. How many rings did Shaq have before playing with a mature Kobe? How many dollar bills will Luke Walton sleep on while having nightmares of what would be if he didn’t start next to Kobe in a contract year? And I’ll tell you what Gasol, Bynum, Artest, and Odom would be without Bryant… They would be ringless. Kobe brought up how interesting it was that Bynum was all of the sudden a permitter jumping shooting big man in the middle of a playoff run. Kobe of course was half praising Andrew… But the other half was disturbed at the lack of killer instinct. Kobe could never hold back at that age. Not for a game… Not for a quarter, and not for a play. He was always going a hundred percent like it was the last percent he would ever be able to lose. For all of the coasting we see on a occasion from Kobe now as a more advanced in age veteran. When Kobe had it he gave it. And he just keeps on giving. Even sometimes when we don’t want him to. But that’s just Kobe. He is a warrior. He is a basketball lunatic.

  18. Second round predictions:

    Boston over Miami in 6
    Chicago over Atl in 7
    Lakers over Dallas in 6
    OKC over whomever in 6 or 7.

  19. @Cdog (#9); Jodial clearly and explicitly stated that he was not in any way dogging on CP3 when he compared Paul’s game six performance (stats) to Kobe’s in that infamous “Kobe quit on the team” game 7 vs the Suns.

    Kobe was bashed nonstop for years after that game 7, but there is not a peep from the media, commentators or fans about similarly passive looking, non-aggressive play on CP3’s part.

    The two games are very similar in many ways. The favored team in both cases was FAR superior in talent. And just like this Hornets team, where Paul is by far the most talented player and thus “the head of the snake”, Kobe was the best player on the Lakers, and he got the “head of the snake” treatment from the Suns.

    Both Paul’s and Kobe’s teams were overmatched, both players were swarmed defensively, and neither one was able to produce at the level that they and their fans would have hoped for in that crucial game. But only one is, or will be villified as a quitter, as selfish, as a pouting prima donna, etc.

    Paul, of COURSE doesn’t deserve nor should he recieve this treatment. But neither did Kobe. Perhaps this can be concidered a tribute to Kobe’s greatness. Nobody believes that with a different approach Chris Paul could have changed the outcome of this series, but deep down many of us believe that “Hero mode” Kobe just might have beaten the Suns in that game 7.

  20. Plaschke is an utter and complete moron.

    I love the way Kobe has been attacking the rim at a much higher rate than in the regular season, or (it seems to me) even in playoffs past. I didn’t notice much settling for jumpers. I’m sure part of it depends on who’s in the middle for the other team, but I hope this trend continues in games when we need it.

  21. So… this is of course pretty much shooting fish in a barrel with an ICBM, but what would you guys pick out as the most moronic thing Plaschke’s said? For me, it would be when he correlated the Laker’s struggle’s in the conference finals with success in the finals; in particular saying that the Lakers being pushed by the Spurs in 2001 (you know, the one where they challenged us so hard we almost beat them in 3 games) correlated with them beating the Sixers in the finals.

  22. There are athletes like Wilt, Barry Bonds, and Kobe who didn’t have much use for the press. Early on the press learns to ‘hate’ these people and never forgets. What they feed the rest of us is all the possible things wrong with them and the press continues this process throughout their careers – regardless. If there is any slip-up, and we all make mistakes in our lives, they are there to make as much as possible out of it.

    This is a fact of American life. This is one reason there is so much dislike for Kobe Bean Bryant.

    The other reason is that he actually had the audacity to try and follow the ‘golden one’.

  23. Aaron @ 17 – That is your best post ever. (OMG what did I just say?!)

    “When Kobe had it he gave it. And he just keeps on giving. Even sometimes when we don’t want him to.” < — Classic

  24. 16 – I think Memphis would give OKC more problems. Z-Bo and Marc will make Perkins, Mohamed, and Ibaka work down low. Battier would get a lot of time on Durant. They can throw Tony Allen, Mike Conley and OJ Mayo at the OKC guards. Memphis has the speed and athleticism to keep up with OKC. It would be a more competitive series than people think.

  25. With Andrew unveiling his now potent face up game, that makes the lakers front line virtually unguardable.
    If this new facet of Andrew’s game is permanent, he is finally becoming a true Triangle Bigman. A triple threat.

    I love it.

  26. @Gr8… Nah, I’m sticking it out here, I find I’m to violent a fan to be seen in public. My house empties mysteriously when the game comes on… But hey you go up there and support the troops!!

  27. I also agree that Memphis would give OKC more trouble than San Antonio would. The Grizz did beat OKC three out of four times this season. Granted, I believe Perkins only played in one of those games, and I’m not sure how many games Rudy Gay played against OKC. However, this Memphis team sure seems pretty tough. Gasol has owned Duncan this series, Randolph has been beasting, and their guards and wings are getting a lot of steals.

    In other news, Simonoid and Renato don’t seem to be into that whole brevity thing.

  28. @gxs, I would answer your question with a resounding “YES!”

    Unvarnished (white) skin has absolutely nothing to do with Pau being considered soft. Allowing a 6’8″ guy to consistently push you out of the post, instinctively going for a layup rather than a dunk, and playing a finesse rather than a power game is what makes him soft (which, by the way, is not a synonym for “weak” or “bad”). In that regard, he’s much like our next opponent’s best player. Dirk Nowitski is a phenomenal player. He’s also really soft for a 7-footer….

    The difference between Andrew’s and Pau’s style is the difference between being soft and not. When Pau attacks, as he did several times last night (on both ends of the floor), he’s probably the best power forward in the game. When he plays his finesse game and doesn’t take it hard to the basket or actively contest shots on defense, he’s just a good power forward.

    That’s the rub. He’s got the ability to lose the soft label forever, but that would require playing the way he did in last year’s Finals all the time, but far too often he plays a more passive style. He’ll still get a consistent 19 & 10 average, which is a testament to how incredibly skilled he is–but that doesn’t, by itself, eliminate the softness.

  29. GXS-I’d have to say yes. There is good Pau and bad Pau. Game 1 Pau was bad Pau. He was passive and cautious. After that, he’s stepped up his game and been good Pau…but he isn’t always aggressive and that’s why he gets some stick about his “toughness”. He’s crazy good, and for me as a Laker fan, I can see that he’s probably the smartest PF out there and he does everything the right way-which enables him to be a great player-and that is a credit, as Funky Chicken says at 29, to how good he is…but there are times when he’s passive. That said, he’s got the rings to shut the haters up so if I were him, I’d just tolerate the occasional bleating by the media, continue working at it, and if he can get just a little meaner, well, the league should REALLY be scared.

  30. 3peat!