Lakers/Hornets: What Matters Is Victory

Rey Moralde —  April 9, 2012

Box Score: Lakers 93, Hornets 91
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 113.4, Hornets 111.0
True Shooting %: Lakers 59.1%, Hornets 55.4%

The Lakers have lost two straight coming into this game against New Orleans. At this point, there are no sure wins for the Lakers, even if it’s against the team with the worst record in the Western Conference. Sure, Eric Gordon, Jarrett Jack, and Emeka Okafor were all out. But Phoenix killed the Lakers with Michael Redd, Shannon Brown, and Sebastian Telfair. To make things a little dicier, Kobe Bryant was out for the second straight game with that teno-shin thing. Well…

The Good:
If I had one game ball to give to, it would be to Ramon Sessions. Sessions finished with 17 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists. But y’all know he hit the 3-pointer that gave the Lakers enough cushion to win the game with 26 seconds left (which punctuated a 10-0 run late in the game). It was the same Pau Gasol back screen that got Kobe free against New Jersey last week.

You gotta give Pau Gasol some credit for carrying the offense. He scored 25 points from 10/21 shooting. Those jumpers looked so pretty today and worked the post like only he could. They don’t win this game without Pau (of course, it’d be nice if he can make some freethrows; 5/9 tonight for Pau).

Bynum was pretty frustrating to watch in the first half but he started passing out better on the double-teams in the second half. He ended the night with another double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He really has to get used to seeing that many double-teams in a game.

Steve Blake has been much-maligned for a while now and I don’t even blame the Laker fans for getting even more frustrated with him due to so many missed defensive rotations and assignments. But he continued to play scrappy, drew a couple of charges, and even made a couple of bank shots up close. Blake finished with 8 points and 4 assists. While it’s far from excellent, it’s his best game in a while and those are some encouraging signs.

Again, Metta World Peace has a flair for the dramatic. I can’t say enough on how many big plays he has made in the clutch this season. His 3-pointer with 1:31 left in the game took the lead for good for the Lakers. Of course, we’ll talk about his… um… questionable play later.

Matt Barnes did his usual dirty work with 9 points and 8 boards. And Devin Ebanks had some nice hustle plays. He scored 6.

Good job by the Lakers with the boards, too. 46-35 edge (12-8 on the offensive end). Pretty good considering the Hornets themselves have some big guys.

The Lakers will take the win. But my goodness, this is the Hornets we’re talking about here.

The Bad:
Most of these were open looks but the Hornets made an incredible 9 for 15 3-pointers. So many bad defensive rotations that had been typical as of late for the Lakers. Marco Belinelli scored 20 (4/7 3-pointers). Greivis Vasquez had 18 points and 11 assists. Vasquez, a 32 percent 3-point shooter, made 5 out of 6 behind the arc. How does this always happen… never mind.

Either the Lakers should go after Carl Landry this offseason or kidnap him and leave him in a dark cave. He scored 20 points, grabbed 11 boards, and dished out 5 assists against them. They couldn’t stop him in the second quarter, where he scored 12 straight points for N’awlins.

The Lakers were also very careless with the ball early on (Al-Farouq Aminu had 3 steals in the first quarter). Good thing they took care of the ball later on but things looked very grim from the start because of it. They eventually settled down to have only 12 turnovers. Of course, the Laker defense, being as threatening as a poodle these days, only forced 7 turnovers.

For much of the first half, the Laker offense looked discombobulated. I felt drunks could execute an offense better (while the outstanding Mark Medina from the L.A. Times tweeted and asked how did I know if they were sober). But it was hard to watch for a while. So much sloppiness and settling.

By the way, MWP. Maybe you shouldn’t roll an inbounds pass to the Hornets frontcourt up 2 with 1.2 seconds remaining. That might be a good idea.

And, no, Jason Smith didn’t tackle anybody.

Give the Hornets credit, though. They played very, very hard.

The Ugly:
You know what’s good torture? Try tying up someone to a chair and make him watch the first half of this game while Justin Bieber’s music is playing in the background the entire time. He would probably die before he could sing, “Baby, baby, baby, ohhhhhh!”

The Play Of The Game:
The Ramon Sessions 3 with 26 seconds left to pretty much put the game out of reach. As mentioned, it was basically the same play that got Kobe Bryant free for a 30-footer against New Jersey that put THAT game away. Great stuff.

It’s the first of three games between Lakers and the Spurs on Wednesday. Not sure if Kobe will play but I wouldn’t mind another holdout just so he can rest more of his tired legs. As of this writing, the Spurs are playing the Jazz without Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili so we don’t know if the Spurs will still have their winning streak intact.

I know us Laker fans will say that the Lakers should’ve beaten the Hornets by a thousand (including me, yes). But it’s just been such a hard season for them that the Lakers and the fans should just take every victory at this point in the game. I just want some momentum for the Lakers going into the postseason. Hopefully, they do well against them old rivals, the San Antonio Spurs, in the next two weeks or so.

Now comment away. Talk about how better of a coach you’ll be than Mike Brown. Talk about how Kobe Bryant looks extremely dapper in his suit. And talk about how Gustavo Ayon from the Hornets looks like a Create-A-Player from NBA2K12. I’m going to get dinner and watch Monday Night Raw. Ciao!

Rey Moralde