Lakers/Hornets: An Old Formula Keeps the Lakers in the Hunt

Darius Soriano —  April 9, 2013

In a game the Lakers desperately needed to win — especially after the Jazz lost to the Thunder — they came through to keep their playoff hopes alive, beating the Hornets 104-96. Now back in control of their own destiny, the Lakers have the 8th seed in their possession with only 4 games left to play.

And while the game wasn’t a great one to watch, it was an old formula that carried them to the victory as Kobe and Pau stepped up big.

Gasol was simply fantastic, scoring 22 points on 9-15 shooting, while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing 4 assists. In the game preview I mentioned that Gasol had the strength advantage against Anthony Davis and could thrive in the post if given the opportunity to do so. Well, Pau got his chance and went to work by backing down the prized rookie for several big buckets in the first half. On several possessions the Lakers simply dumped the ball into the Spaniard and watched him use an array of moves to get the types of easy baskets he’s made for the team so many times over the years. Lefty hooks, turn around jumpers, little floaters…his entire arsenal was on display. And when the defense started to adjust to what the Lakers were doing, he did what he typically does, making the right read and hitting his open teammates for good looks. On a night where the Lakers needed to control the paint offensively, Gasol provided much of that interior presence.

Kobe, meanwhile, laid in the weeds for most of this game. Early on he seemed content to move the ball and only force the action sparingly. When he did try to attack for his own offense, he couldn’t conjure up any makes, however, struggling to find his flow in a game that saw the team mostly going inside to the bigs to get good looks. However, when the 4th quarter started it all started to click for #24. A couple of long jumpers fell. Then a mid range pull up. Then a hesitation dribble drive that led to a finger roll after a switch put Anthony Davis on him. Then another jumper followed by a steal that led to a lay up plus the foul. By quarter’s end, Kobe had scored 23 points on 7-11 shooting while also tallying 1 assist. He also picked up his defensive intensity down the stretch, grabbing 3 steals in the final frame and pressuring Eric Gordon into multiple mistakes. For the game he dropped 30 on 9-18 shooting,

Beyond Kobe and Pau, the Lakers got good production from Dwight Howard (19 points, 6 rebounds) and Antawn Jamison (13 points, 8 rebounds) and some timely baskets from Meeks and Blake as well. Ron played sparingly in his first game back, but provided his typical effort in those minutes and seemed to serve as an inspiration to his mates while he was on the floor. All in all, the rest of the team did what was needed of them for most of the night, mostly hustling on both sides of the ball and playing off Kobe and Pau offensively to take advantage of their opportunities when the defense overcompensated for what that duo was doing.

This game probably shouldn’t have been as close as it was, but for that you need to give credit to the Hornets. They played extremely hard in this game and were ready to pounce whenever the Lakers let down defensively or showed any hesitation on offense. After being down by as many as 10 in the 2nd quarter, the Hornets stormed back with big run to close the first half to take a 5 point lead into the 3rd quarter. They hit the shots they needed to and took advantage of the match ups in front of them to make the Lakers pay for shoddy defensive rotations and suspect isolation defense.

In the 2nd half, however, the Lakers cleaned up a lot of their mistakes and ultimately were able to take control in the 4th quarter. With Kobe finding his stride on offense to pair with his defense on Gordon, Clark’s strong defense on Vasquez, and the collective effort of the entire team to close defensive possessions with rebounds, they were able to pull out the win. It would have been nice had they shown that same urgency in that poor 2nd quarter, but then again this is the same pattern this team has shown all season and it shouldn’t be that big a surprise that they go stretches with poor focus and/or execution. At this point, this is who they are as a team.

That said, what’s also true is that they’re willing to fight to the end and still have the ability to make enough plays when they fully commit as a group. Tonight, the formula was one we’ve seen many times before with Pau doing some heavy lifting from the post and Kobe closing out the game with a flurry of baskets down the stretch. Whether or not that can be a long term formula is of less consequence than the fact that it led to a win against the Hornets. After all, while the big picture goals still matter, it’s the short term ones that take priority. And that means winning these individual games.

They got this one. Now, there’s only four more to go.

Darius Soriano

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9 responses to Lakers/Hornets: An Old Formula Keeps the Lakers in the Hunt

  1. Thoughts:

    I know a guy who is a huge Wolves fan. He said that the Wolves were very motivated to get Adelman 1000 but may now phone in the rest, and GS beat them easily tonight.

    Pau is showing that he is not washed up just yet.

    GS is one game ahead of Hou for 6th; both clinched spots tonight. SA is 1/2 game ahead of OKC. Portland will play very hard tomorrow.

    So, I think the Lakers are about 35/65.

  2. I really have no clue where we will be at the end of the season. This game showed us why there is hope. It also showed us why we are frustrated with this team.

    I want us to make the playoffs not because I think they can take all of the top three Western Conference teams in a seven game series – I only have a hope they could defeat S.A. and that is because of the possible matchups – but because I suspect Kobe will feel this year will have been a total waste unless we at least make the playoffs.

    There will have to be changes – if only because we need to get younger players into the rotation – but there was excitement in signing Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and I don’t think it was all misplaced. It was more that we really shouldn’t have expected them to get through the year without injury, plus there was some disappointment with who we kept on the bench – i.e. Morris and Ebanks didn’t develop like we hoped. Of course Clark was a gem of a find, but the loss of Jordan Hill really limited our rotation at center and increased the criticism of Pau playing there at his age and athleticism.

    If we don’t make the playoffs, then the fan criticism crescendo will make the off-season that much more difficult for the front office and M.D.A. It is unrealistic to expect a dynasty any time soon, but we should be better next year.

    Oh yes – please don’t quote stats at me to prove your point that I don’t know what I am talking about. I saw all the games.

  3. rr,

    while the Hollinger odds have it at 57.2/41 Lakers favor I have to agree that kind of overestimates given the current state of the lakers game. They sure have gotten discombobulated since the return of kobe and Pau games against the Wizards and GSW and since the subsequent injuries to MWP and Nash..before these problems/injuries emerged a couple of weeks ago this was a much better functioning team…now we are back to “lets see if Kobe can pull it out” mode which is not where we want to be. So I think your odds are closer to reality.

    Portland is likely without Batum and Wesley Williams and Hickson is questionable by the way.

  4. Add in the fact that Memphis probably will rest their player at the end of the season make me hope wish the Lakers win all of their remaining game.

    on a side note, Earl Clark contract end in 2013 too, I really hope they keep him, he remind me of freaking Shane Battier, doing things that doesn’t show up in the box score yet usually have a good +/-

  5. http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/36362/bryant-backs-the-gasol-reclamation-project

    Apparently the only reason Gasol even got post touches last night is because he went renegade (with Kobe’s prodding). This is another reminder of what a truly terrible coach D’Antoni is, having the league’s most skilled post player on his roster and preferring to use him as a spot-up three point shooter.

    Jimbo, please fire Pringles … hell, bring back Mike Brown. Isn’t he still on the payroll?

  6. Craig W,

    Great post. As many here, I have been a fan for a long time. I’ve come to appreciate the process of building to a championship as much as the championship itself. This year, however, has been so difficult to watch — I really feel for the guys on the team struggling with all of this (expectations, injuries, coaching issues), but then I also understand Kobe’s perspective to just deal with it and play.

    This has been one of the hardest years for me to be a fan, given the wild up and down swings. At the end of all this, I hope some hard lessons are learned by the front office.

  7. Portland is likely without Batum and Wesley Williams and Hickson is questionable by the way.

    —-

    That may help. The Lakers will need it. Pau is looking better, which helps.

  8. I think you mean Wesley Matthews.

  9. What do you guys think of this:
    http://sulia.com/channel/la-lakers/f/d5a4eb7f-2508-4369-b606-138010d06562/?source=twitter

    I love it personally, but what does it say about the relationship between the players/coaches right now? All I know is that Gasol in the post was a sweet sweet sight to behold. Granted, it was against a rookie who weighs less than him… Was still nice to see the old Gasol for a moment.