[The above is a video compilation of Ron Artest’s season of muscle flexing. (h/t to The Basketball Jones)]
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Before the game, I wrote about the need for Chris Paul not just to play well, but at a level approaching the upper edges of elite (as he was in Games 1 and 4) for the Hornets to have a chance. Fair to say he didn’t get there. For the first time in the series, the Lakers almost completely eliminated Paul as a factor. CP3 finished the first half with only one field goal, four assists, and two turnovers as the Lakers crowded him on the ball, and when he gave it up L.A. did a great job denying him opportunities to get it back. The third quarter wasn’t particularly kind, either, as Paul had more turnovers (two) than buckets (one). He’d finish with 10 points on 4-of-9 from the floor, and while he had 11 assists also turned the ball over five times, a ratio the Lakers could more than live with. All series long, Paul has been called the head of the snake. Take it off, and the whole thing dies. Thursday, the Lakers not only decapitated the slithery reptile, but turned the skin into a boots and barbecued the meat. L.A. was very strong inside, pressuring nearly everything near the bucket (six blocks), forced most of New Orleans’ possessions deep into the clock, and successfully executed their plan to keep the Hornets operating away from the paint and at mid-range.
From Joe Gerrity, Hornets 247: The Hornets season ended today in uninspiring fashion, as they fell apart early in the fourth quarter yet again against the Lakers, losing 98-80. The loss ended hope of extending what can only be described as a successful season. The crowd showed their appreciated with a late game chant of “Thank You Hornets”, well after the game was out of hand. Heading into this year it was expected that Chris Paul would leave, and that the Hornets would miss the playoffs. Once they got in it was expected that they would be just a cake-walk for the reigning champions. Instead we got to see a full season of Chris Paul, who proved that his knee injury is not as hobbling as many thought it would be. We witnessed a Hornets late season push to secure a postseason spot despite the presence of their leading scorer. Then we got to see the team take the Hornets to six games, which were all competitive for the majority.
From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: In the end, there was little drama. The New Orleans Hornets fought a scrappy insurgent war against the reigning champs, but their season has concluded much as we thought it would, under the grinding boot heels of Kobe Bryant and the Laker big men. By the time the Lake Show’s 98 to 80 victory over the Hornets in Game Six wrapped up tonight, that Game One upset seemed distantly in the past, and both teams had reverted to the roles we cast for them at the outset of this series. The Lakers once again resembled a championship-caliber force. The Hornets once again looked like a team that needs a little more from Chris Paul and a whole lot more talent around him. The last couple years, in nearly every Laker playoff series, there’s come a moment when you can see the opponents’ fighting spirit seep out of them for good. The Celtics in last year’s Finals are the one exception: they never stopped battling or believing. But every other series the Lakers have played en route to their back-to-back titles has ended with an opponent bowing its head in defeat before the final buzzer sounds. Tonight that moment arrived for the Hornets some time in the third quarter.
From Ramneet Singh, Lakers Nation: The Lakers were welcomed by a hostile New Orleans crowd, and the “Beat LA” chants began well before tip-off. However, the veteran Lakers team embraced the negative slurs and used that to fuel their play. Neither team started the game strong, nor were they able to hit their open looks. The Lakers were attacking the paint, but they failed to convert when getting close to the rim. Kobe Bryant took more of a facilitator role in the opening stages of the quarter, and he looked to give the big men the ball down low. The Lakers started the game missing six of the first eight shots and at the 7:22 mark of the first; Los Angeles trailed 8-6.
From Rohan, At The Hive: In a few days, we’ll look back on this series in a largely positive manner. I’m sure of it . That the Hornets took the L.A. Lakers to six games is remarkable in and of itself. But it doesn’t change the fact that this concluding game marked a return to those things we grew to so vociferously despise over these last five months. Chris Paul’s passivity. The almost hilarious absence of perimeter shooting. Mis-evaluation of bench players. Those three things, probably more than anything else, define the 2010-2011 Hornets. And they most certainly defined them in their obliteration at the hands of Los Angeles. It feels strange to criticize Chris Paul after the series he’s had, but Paul absolutely failed to show up in the first half. It’s one thing to have an off half (which, quite frankly, is an apt description of Paul’s second half anyway). It’s quite another to not only not shoot the basketball, but to literally avoid the ball entirely for possessions at a time. Where the national audience may have been somewhat shocked, we could do no more than sigh knowingly. It’s true that Los Angeles pulled away in the third quarter, but the number of opportunities New Orleans left on the floor in the first half thanks to CP3’s vanishing act was staggering.
From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The Lakers are called soft but unquestionably are getting harder with Andrew Bynum doing his new thing. They have a killer instinct that starts with Kobe Bryant and wafts through the entire locker room, as seen by another close-out Thursday night that had Derek Fisher saying with satisfaction: “We smelled an opportunity to finish it out.” But what isn’t much talked about but is a precious commodity in this budding dynasty is that they are pretty smart guys. Bryant, Fisher, Bynum, Pau Gasol … all unquestionably smarter than your average NBAer. Obviously Phil Jackson. Ron Artest is actually sort of a defensive-basketball mad genius, too. That is actually part of the killer instinct: learning over the course of a series how to kill. It wasn’t Bryant’s tide-turning dunk that Fisher was raving about after the Lakers’ Game 5 victory. It was that Bryant, wobbly on that sprained left ankle, playing calculatingly and not crazy: “When to attack, when to move the ball,” Fisher said, “he played a really smart game.”
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The Lakers’ makeup doesn’t make practice time ripe in preparing for the pick-and-roll offense no matter what they do. Sure they can dissect film, mimic opposing team’s tendencies and run pick-and-roll sequences until it’s drilled into their heads. But part of the practice time also entails running the triangle offense, which operates without the traditional point guard and stresses off-ball movement and balanced spacing. Add the Lakers’ veteran-laden roster, and it becomes the main area to try to exploit against them, a dicey scenario when they matched up with the New Orleans Hornets in the first round. But if the Lakers’ 98-80 Game 6 victory Thursday over New Orleans taught us anything besides the fact the defending champs survived their first-round series in six games and face the winner of Portland-Dallas in the West semifinals at Staples Center on Monday, it’s that the matchup featured an evolution in how they guarded the pick-and-roll and eventually succeeded. “It’s been our weakness in the past,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson told reporters in New Orleans. “We learned a lot about it in the series and we got better.”
Below is the TV Schedule for the Lakers’ second round series with Dallas:
Game 1 – Mon May 2 Dallas at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed May 4 Dallas at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri May 6 L.A. Lakers at Dallas 6:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sun May 8 L.A. Lakers at Dallas 12:30PM ABC/R
Game 5 * Tue May 10 Dallas at L.A. Lakers TBD TBD TNT
Game 6 * Thu May 12 L.A. Lakers at Dallas TBD TBD ESPN
Game 7 * Sun May 15 Dallas at L.A. Lakers 12:30PM 3:30PM ABC