Preview and Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

Darius Soriano —  April 9, 2013

Records: Lakers 40-37 (9th in the West), Hornets 27-50 (13th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.4 (8th in the NBA), Hornets 102.8 (15th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.7 (T 17th in the NBA), Hornets 107.3 (28th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Hornets: Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Nash (out), Metta World Peace (questionable), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Hornets: Austin Rivers (out), Jason Smith (out)

Hornets Blogs: Hornets 24/7 is great. As is At The Hive. Not sure what their new names will be next season when the team becomes the Pelicans, but both are worth your time now and will be in the future too.

Talking Points: Tonight is a pretty big night for the Lakers. They trail the Jazz by .5 games for the 8th seed, but are even in the loss column. The Lakers face a Hornets group that has given them issues all season while Jazz host the Thunder in what is a pretty difficult game even though it’s in Salt Lake City. If the Lakers win and the Jazz lose, the 8th seed is back in the Lakers’ hands and their destiny is once again their own to control. If the Lakers lose and the Jazz win, the prospects of making the playoffs pretty much go down to zero.

Even if that’s a slight exaggeration, the facts are these: After tonight the Jazz will have 3 games, 2 of which are against the playing better but still vulnerable Timberwolves (one road, one home) and the Grizzlies (on the road). The Lakers, meanwhile will have 4 more games including a visit to Portland tomorrow and games against the always problematic Spurs, the Warriors, and the Rockets. Basically, the Lakers can’t expect any help and should set their goals at winning out. Even though the Jazz control their own destiny and could also clinch by winning out, losing one game — with tonight being one of the best chances — looks more than possible. Anything beyond that is a toss up (though that Memphis game has potential). So, while we’ll all be watching the Lakers’ game, keep one eye on the happenings in Utah tonight, folks. It really does matter.

As for winning this game against the Hornets there are a few keys:

  • Slow down Greivis Vasquez.
  • Stick to shooters around the arc.
  • Pound the ball inside offensively.
  • Get solid production from the few bench players who do see action.
  • Take care of the ball/avoid turnovers.

Vasquez is the key to the Hornets attack and has hurt the Lakers in every game this season. He’s a crafty pick and roll practitioner and finds cracks in the defense when attacking in isolation. He flashes an improved jumper, but his main goal is to get into the paint and either finish for himself or draw enough attention to hit a teammate for an open shot. Slowing him means keeping him out of the paint — which is easier said than done. He has a big body and knows how to use it, but Blake will need to play him aggressively and shade him to spots on the floor along the wing while always keeping him walled off via smart use of angles. There will be times where Blake gets beat, but if he can win this game within the game the Lakers will be much better off.

If Blake (along with Dwight and Pau behind him) can keep Vasquez from doing a lot of damage at the rim, the Lakers wings must do their jobs of sticking to shooters behind the arc and not get roped into no man’s land too close to the paint where they’re not helping, but not covering their own man. This is especially key against Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, but also against Roger Mason, Brian Roberts, and Xavier Henry. All three are capable of knocking down the outside shot and must be respected out there. Roberts, Henry, and Gordon have more diverse games and will put the ball on the floor so controlled closeouts are in order. Mason and Anderson must be run off the line at all costs and forced to create a shot off the dribble with the rest of the team reacting to them once the ball is put on the floor.

Offensively, the ball must go through the post. It doesn’t much matter if that’s through Dwight, Pau, or Kobe, but the ball must be worked 15 feet and in with quality shots obtained through discipline, but aggressive, ball movement. Both Dwight and Pau have the games to work-over their respective defenders and must be assertive in establishing position and then looking to make strong moves around the rim. Anthony Davis is the team’s only real shot blocker and while he must be respected inside, he lacks the ballast to keep Dwight (and even Pau) away from the rim if they get low and use their legs to drive for their position. The Lakers’ wings must recognize this and make the post entry on time when the bigs break open. Holding the ball even a beat too long may sacrifice the position established.

Kobe will likely see a combination of Gordon and Aminu (and maybe even Henry) on defense and while all can be good defenders, he must also work to exploit them by trying to get good shots from the FT line and below. Kobe’s been playing a ton of minutes lately and when he gets fatigued one of the areas that’s most affected is his shot selection. He starts to settle for long jumpers, especially form behind the arc, and those are the types of bail out shots the defense wants him taking. If he’s patient in his work off the ball and aggressive when handling it (either in the P&R or in isolation) he can get good looks or earn trips to the FT line. Both, as well as his playmaking, will be needed against an opponent that has typically been able to match the Lakers in points. So, as usual, Kobe will need to do it all.

As for the other Lakers, it will be nice to get Ron back tonight, even in a limited role (he’s expected to play around 20 minutes, though that’s just an estimate). If he can hit a few jumpers and play tough defense, he’ll be a net positive. Just his presence alone should inspire his mates. Where the Lakers need actual production is from Clark, Jamison, and Meeks. Clark has been great lately and more of that will be needed. His activity on both sides of the floor have provided a needed boost. Jamison has also been a solid contributor and his offense — both inside and out — will be helpful. Meeks, however, needs to find his game and quickly. His jumper has not been falling lately and while he works hard on defense, if he’s not hitting shots his utility as a player goes down dramatically. He’s been getting wide open looks, but just can’t seem to knock them down. That must change tonight.

Overall, this is a game that the Lakers should win, but it’s also one they must win. There are no more second chances for this team. There are 5 games left and getting them all is as close to a necessity as you can get. The only way to make that happen is to start with this game tonight.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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94 responses to Preview and Chat: The New Orleans Hornets

  1. Kobe Alert: OK – Kobe likes guarantees. The Kobe Alert is 10-5 in the first post, and I am going to try to get it there today. If it is in post #1, I am going to guarantee victory ! Last game Kobe moved by Dave Cowens for 59th on the Defensive Rebound list and is now pursuing Rick Mahorn for 58th. KB needs 8 more FGs to have 11,000 for his career (only 5 others have done it). He needs 2 more games played to catch Hakeem for 22nd. 786 to go until Kobe can be like Mike. Well, that and 5 + 1. Thanks to R, KenOak, and PurpleBlood for the shout outs – sorry first post did not work against the Clips – but today it is guaranteed !

  2. For Warren! For Robert! For MWP! For the season, baby!

  3. I love guarantees! Well…their backs are against the wall. It will be interesting to see how they respond when a loss pretty much slams the door on their playoff hopes.

  4. hey darius: this must be fat tuesday, we’re playing new orleans aren’t we? at home no less.

    not sure if these last few games of the regular season are further heightened by the lakers last gasp efforts to enter the nba playoffs this season or just the opposite is happening; ie., futile attempts at winning can be negated by a couple of wins by all that jazz – team that is.

    emotionally, i’m spent. but then again, a little run of wins coupled with a couple of losses by the jazz can begin to peak my interest. i expect no less in this the most tumultuous laker season ever.

    could be a lot to ask considering all the misbegotten injuries both physical and mental to all key laker players, do what you do best: keep laker nation on the edge of their seats.

    might have to go walk the dog a few times tonite.

    Go Lakers

  5. I’m really, genuinely okay with the Lakers not making the playoffs and just using the extra time to heal, lick wounds, charge up, use this season as mental fuel, and get ready for next season (including, oh I don’t know, an actual training camp).

    It seems the harder we tried, the longer we drag this out, the more injuries, awful luck, and bad chemistry we accrue. We lost Phil Jackson, LeBron is getting MVP#4 and ring #2, the Clippers (of all teams) are the Pacific champs, and the Lakers will likely miss the playoffs entirely. It’s been a nightmare season. I’m fine to just stop the bleeding, cut the losses, and heal up for one last strong run for Kobe’s 6th.

    And this is coming from a 31-year old, 3rd generation Laker fan.

  6. Well, the Jazz host the Thunder tonight so there is hope. But i agree with David, this season have been exhausting, never experience a season like this in 32 years. Even if tje Lakers dont make the playoffs i think we have a full postseason worth of tension, highs and lows. We just need to keep winning games but lets not forget that it have taken two huge comebacks to beat this team. Im not sure MWP coming back this early is healthy or wise. If he returns this quick he should be taken away for science research, unbeliavable.I think is safe to say this team cant lose one more game, a loss in any of yhis games is the nail in the coffing. Every game is an elimination game. In Vino we trust…

  7. Dr Clapper, head surgeon at Cedars Hospital in LA, and often sits in the front near Jack, says the injury MWP has will not be worsened if he plays. He will have less strength and much less endurance due to what was done. If he has Kobe’s will he can play, but his minutes should be closely monitored.

  8. for what its worth, my brother is a doctor who did a residency in sports medicine in Oklahoma some time ago and says a torn meniscus is a whole different matter and not nearly as severe as a torn ligament, which is why 4-6 weeks was way conservative. Haven’t asked him if two weeks seems plausible, but its clear that he said a torn meniscus was not a very bad injury.

  9. Maybe Metta injury will make him less apt to dribbling around in circles for 23 seconds. Does OKC want Lakers or Utah in first round. Guess we will see tonight.

  10. Harvey M-
    Meniscus can be a longer heal time depending on how bad the tear is. This is because you have to keep weight off the knee for longer to allow the meniscus to heal. I had an acl tear and a meniscus tear and the rehab on the meniscus was a couple weeks longer than the acl.

  11. The Team that Must Not Be Named by 9 in the early going…..go get ’em KD!!! Go get ’em Russel… Kobe who?

    (I’m going to go take a fetal-position shower now)

  12. Right now the only numbers that are important are the ones under the Win-Loss columns for the Lakers. And the Lakers need to win all of their remaining games to make the post season. Do or die time continues for my Lakers.

  13. OKC up by 10 at the half.

  14. There are two cyborgs on the Lakers now: Kobe and MWP.

  15. what happened to that HOU-PHX ending? seems weird…
    anyways, i agree that we should win all our remaining games, without excuses, to make it to the playoffs.
    we could be facing OKC in round 1, since we will beat spurs to pull them down in the standings.
    whatever happens, it was really a weird season for this laker team, full of disappointment due to injury bug (i could say also for bad coaching hire – imagine if PJ was handling this team, he put a primed Kobe in a position to win against PHX in playoffs in yesteryears when Kobe is playing with Smush and company.)

    again, no excuses. this is really a sad season for me. 🙁
    only miracle can save our team.

  16. woooohoooo, welcome back World Peace 🙂

  17. Ron Artest with a 3, glad he is back.

  18. pau plays like hes six feet tall…no heart

  19. Thank you

  20. Thank you Westbrook. Thanks for looking likes Meeks out there Martin. You stink. Now win Lakers

  21. Now we just need to win out.

  22. OKC beats the Jazz, Lakers back to controlling their own playoff destiny.

  23. Howard and Kobe can’t be out at the same time. EVER.

  24. This team is just maddening to watch, blowing a 10 point lead against this piece of crap Pelican team. SMH, correct that 12-0 run by thef reaking Pelicans

  25. MDA should have stopped the Pelicans run when they got back to back baskets. Why allow the lead to evaporate and then call a timeout with 2 minutes left in the half?

    These are the time management issues that strike me more than player rotations.

    Timeouts are not only meant to stop the other teams momentum, but also to get your team back on track.

    Did someone tell the Lakers that the Jazz lost because they are playing like it doesn’t matter?

  26. And just like that, a 10 pt. lead has been erased and we’re now tied. Right on cue. Unbelievable. Letting the same thing happen game after game speaks of low basketball IQ. How do you not learn from your mistakes when EVERYONE points out the same thing? Stu just even said it. They’ve blown big leads all season long. How is it even possible to let the same thing keep happening? Figure it out!!! SMH

  27. Lakers 10 point lead is gone as they suffer through a bit of a scoring drought.

  28. This is the second straight game that Dwight has been invisible on the boards. He has 2 defensive boards so far in 18 mins. He had 4 total rebounds against the Clippers. He needs to step up his activity.

  29. Nice coaching there. Meeks can’ t guard gorden! Get Metta in there. Stop giving ball to Dwight. Shoot the ball Kobe. Take control. Get Geeks out of there. Are you stupid Coach. Holy crud. Is he the dumbest coach ever.

    Work coached team in league.

  30. Again on Meeks. How can this coach be this blind!

  31. So typical for this team. I don’t think that they can go a full game without one of these quarters. That spells doom against any of the top teams in the league.

  32. Did anyone really think the season would end differently than what it has been?

  33. We know how this ends

  34. 2nd quarter turned into a layup drill when Pau went out started with Gordon and Vasquez then the onslaught continued. All this talent going to waste.

    Too many times a 34 year old is asked to provide the spark for this team to get them going. 27 year player in his prime can’t jumpstart this team in any way. It was telling when D’Antoni said playing Kobe 48 minutes is Lakers best chance of winning. Dwight needs to do more. Another whopping 4 rebounds for him at half in another crucial game.

  35. lot of that drought and turn around happened when kobe came back…others had a nice run and kobe came back with 7 point lead…gave up 12 point margin in 5 minutes there.

  36. Only way they win this game is if the fire Mike Daaaa at half time or tie Meeks to a locker. 16 to 2 run all Meeks not close to Gorden. So who is going to defend this non-coach now?

  37. The west is a whole different animal than the east can the Lakers rely on Dwight to have them in contention every year? Lakers franchise players have always been game changers it took more than 1 star to win but each in their own right were game changers. Dwight needs to impact the game more he’s not imposing his will like he should.

  38. we need desperation to win this one.
    probably players now know that we still have chance since Utah loss.

  39. Meeks isnt much better than smush…if hes better at all.

    Derek fisher looks better than nash..morris and duhon

    Pau cant jump

    Dwight wont jump
    Steve blake wouldn’t get minutes for utah or dallas..

    And this is the team baby buss wanted

  40. 4 rebounds doesn’t cut it and Gordon and Vasquez waltzing into the paint with no fear of hitting the deck also is alarming. Dwight hasn’t floored anybody this season. The way this season has gone if Bynum were still on the team he would’ve put a guard on his backside. A mean streak is needed in Dwight’s game to hit that level we know he can get too.

  41. Kobe needs to make his presence felt in this 2nd half. He’s allowing Gordon (who has always defended him well by making Kobe earn everything) to push him further away from the basket. Kobe, more than likely, will also have to accept the challenge of guarding Gordon.

  42. Coach, how do you ask Earl Clark, a player that has never played consistently in the NBA other than the games he’s played with the Lakers, to play multiple positions: center, pf, sf and defense on off guards.

    A coach must put a player in a position to get the most out of him, and he is not doing that with Clark in this game.

    My poor Lakers they just can not stand prosperity. This season is taxing me, so I know it has to have drained the entire organization.

  43. pau playing like a man again….so frustrating knowing he always has that in him and rarely uses it

  44. Biggest game of the year and Kobe is terrible. Who will he Blame on this? Worst game of year, as many TO as points.

  45. come on Artest, bring up our intensity.
    we need that bad boy side. fight this game.

  46. Welcome back healthy/rested Pau!!!!!!

    And, the dreaded scoring drought by Kobe finally inserts itself into the season. Too many minutes!!!!!

  47. Gasol!! Holy crap, where has this been?

  48. Gasol to Howard for the slam dunk. Pau is having a very good third quarter. The Lakers should continue to look for him on offense.

  49. Kobe is 1 for 6 with 4 turnovers.


  50. Blake with the Fisher special, the foot on the line 2.

  51. Kobe apparently could care less about this game. This after he tweeted that his focus was soley on this game. Really? Focused? Seriously? Game started, Kobe. How bout you join the action.

    And before everyone jumps all over me, Kobe is my favorite player of all time. That’s why I’m so frustrated with his play tonight.

    Finally! Thanks for participating for once.

  52. Your franchise player Dwight. Such a overrated player. How long is this joke of a coach going to leave Meeks in. Is he trying to end the season. Loses man again.

  53. Garbage offensive foul call on Dwight. Terrible clock management by Kobe on that last play of the quarter.

  54. Boom! Vino is now in the building!

  55. Kobe with back to back baskets, one a 3 and another basket. Time out Hornets.

  56. There we go, Kobe!! That’s the player we all have come to love! Finally, the Mamba shows up!

  57. KOBE!!! He’s got your back, Robert.

    Have to re-emphasize the importance of Pau’s play…awesome.

    Steve Blake is playing a well rounded game.

    Meeks makes me so nervous on offense.

    You worry about Kobe trying to take over too much.

  58. And after all the criticism of kobe, he knocks down 3 straight jumpshots. Great timing, mamba!

  59. I have been relatively benign in my comments about MDA but as things were getting away from the Lakers in the 2nd D’Antoni finally called a timeout. Agree with earlier comments that he should have stopped the bleeding earlier but of far more concern to me is a concern about his temprament. When things are not going well he can be counted on to display his dissatisfaction for all the world to see, especially his players.

    His “I just bit into a lemon” hangdog frown hardly inspires confidence for fan or player alike. This may seem like a nit but I think it underscores a leadership failing. From my perspective his “aw shucks” funny guy persona in interviews belies his true personality which seems far too insecure and negative to provide the calmness and confidence effective leadership requires. Moreover, this quality is seen in almost every game so hardly unique to tonight but felt that it warranted a mention. Perhaps it’s only a cosmetic thing but I am convinced it is something deeper.

  60. Kobe got the team in 4th with his offense now Dwight has to do the same with his defense. Lakers won’t win without some plays by him.

  61. They can’t beat this crap team! At home. Biggest game of year. Means nothing for NO!

    Any the chances in the playoffs are?

    What a colossal sad thing to watch,

  62. we need the D of Kobe now, just let Gasol and Dwight do the Offense.
    we’re losing this one because of poor D.

  63. Pau massively outplaying Dwight in this critical game.

  64. Off accolades alone Dwight should have a coach’s trust to not pick up a 6th foul. But D’Antoni takes him out. He has to be able to trust players to work through tough situations.

  65. So much Kobe ISO in the 4th quarter. Would like to see Pau in the post just to change things up a bit.

  66. Another choke no show game for Dwight when they need it. Pau twice the player.

  67. Good to see Pau bringing his game tonight. He’s just so much better in the post.

    Mamba with the steal and goes coast to coast!!!

  68. The Lakers continue their bizarro championship run. Epic, playoff intensity games, and you have to remind yourself the opponent is the 2nd-worst team in the conference.

  69. Airballs and bricks from wide open players…big reason we are a bad team.

  70. Kobe with the steal, gets the layup and 1, makes the FT for the 3 point play.

  71. if we blew this game from here, lakers should blow this team. 😛
    keep up the intensity.

    that howard turnover was critical, focus man.

  72. Really Laker fans. Do you want 3 or 4 years of Dwight Howard? He plays like a rookie in his 9th season. Really?

  73. also chearn i honestly think MDA is using timeouts as breathers for KB24 and D12

  74. Ken – Yes I do want Dwight Howard. He’s leading the league in rebounding for one thing. He hits over 55% of his shots for another. And, he’s a lousy free throw shooter like other HOF centers who have come before him. (I don’t need to name names, do I?)

    By the way, what alternative do you suggest? The Lakers could offer a max deal to Bynum to sit on the bench in a suit all the time.

  75. Great game by Pau and super 2nd half Kobe. Not so much by Kwame Howard.

  76. Ok R. Wonder if you can teach a guy smarts? Maybe Phil but Mike D?

    Frustrating season.

  77. Robert comes through! The Kobe alert improves to 11-5 when it’s the first post and the guaranteed win is delivered. Robert, take a bow.

    Kobe continues his march to immortality …

  78. Weak effort in a must win game.

  79. Ken no doubt it’s a frustrating season. I’m with you there!

  80. No time to rest Lakers, need to get a win tomorrow in your house of horrors in Portland.

  81. Kobe needs to make his presence felt in this 2nd half .. Kobe, more than likely, will also have to accept the challenge of guarding Gordon.

    He definitely granted me my wishes. Took over Offensively in the Money Quarter and put the Handcuffs on Gordon and then proceeded to lock him up.

    It was a struggle against a bad team who presents match-up problems for us, but fortunately, we were able to pull it out.

    Tomorrow night, in 1 of our favorite buildings, we’ll have to find the resolve to push through and gather another victory.

  82. In total awe of Vino, there is nothing more to add.

  83. Funky,
    Even though I totally agree with you, I think we just need to sadly accept that this is who this team is. Normally, I would be annoyed like you about struggling to beat a crappy NO team at home in a game of this magnitude with our playoff lives on the line. But this is not a championship contending team like we’ve come to expect year after year. We are who we are. A mediocre team at best. So maybe I shouldn’t be disappointed that we barely won this game, and should simply be happy that we won at all. Man, I can’t believe how this season has made me change my perspective.

    Oh well, one down and 4 to go. On to Rip City for our last chance this season to sweep a b2b. Let’s get it done.

  84. Hard to watch that one. Its really scrambled and random and just a lot of kicking and scratching, with no confidence that they are a functioning team, just getting by on the fact that their experience will pull them through. Doesn’t feel like they can sustain that against good teams and really feels that despite the win they are back in a funk.

    I really felt after that game in Indy where Kobe went down they had a bit of a run going and some steam. Then there was that bad loss in Phoenix on the back to back with the 7 guys running and then really the key game of the season where they faced the wizards (who by the way are on a pretty decent run over the last 30 or so) and you had that bad game where Kobe and Pau really struggled coming back off injuries. And then you lose Metta and Nash and again its a new rotation and a new chemistry on court. Feels like a real struggle out there, but maybe, somehow, they can build on this one.

  85. We all know what happens on the second game of a back to back. Its going to be tough to win in Portland where the lakers always have trouble winning. Also, how is gasol outplaying howard, the future franchise player?

  86. I read in the ESPN recap that Kobe lead a desperate rally to keep LA “slim” playoffs hope alive and that they are tied with Utah, who wrote this stuff? i guess that moron dont know that Utah lost tonight.

  87. we definitely need to add 1 bench player tomorrow, just a breather for our olds.
    this was a good win, we should continue this focus and come up with desperation tomorrow at Rip City. every game counts.

  88. It’s hard to watch a supposed franchise player sputter down the stretch. 6 rebounds, foul trouble and mental mistakes. Pau has definitely become the 2nd option on offense.

  89. darius: dog scratches door. we go for walk. we come home. lakers win.

    sounds like a recipe for winning?

    Go Lakers

  90. Going tomorrow on a b2b on the Rose Garden and w/ Nash. Can we stack the deck some more please? Lol

  91. Just win baby! Didn’t see the game yet because of work, but glad the Lakers are still in the hunt. Following the game on a mobile phone is nerve wracking!

  92. Zirk, I’m with you 100%. Based on record, margin of victory/loss, or any other metric you want to use, this year’s Lakers are a very mediocre team. Rather than holding them to the same standard as previous years where the championship has seemed like a legitimate goal, I’ve been trying to appreciate getting victories at all, rather than continuing to be negative. The team has been frustrating this year so far, but what’s been almost as frustrating is the constant stream of negativity coming from the chats. I’m not talking about you here, Zirk, this is more directed towards the forum in general. For those using this chat thread as a stream of consciousness twitter-like place to rant every couple of minutes really saps any enjoyment I used to have about coming to this site. And it’s unfortunate. Teams have worse seasons than this ALL the time and perhaps we need to be grateful for the positive things we HAVE been privileged to see both this season and in seasons past.

  93. batman, I’m so happy that MDA has started to use his timeouts to give a short bench rest, I’ve been advocating for him to use that simple strategy for some time now.

    david h-you’ve been on quite a roll, the dog gets sick of watching the Lakers lose decides to go for a walk and when you return the Lakers win…boom! Make sure your dog gets plenty to eat and drink so he can keep his record intact.

    That was one quality play when Pau went down on his knees and made that pass to Jamison whom made himself available to receive that pass and score.

    Far better to have Clark on the floor in the waning minutes of the game instead of Jodie because he will shoot a 3pt shot at a crucial point in the game. Clark didn’t score but he impacted the game when he wasn’t in foul trouble.

    Good to see MWP back on the floor, he wasn’t in the game long before a tussle broke out. Welcome back MWP. He’s too sexy for his cat.

    Great win by the Lakers!