Records: Lakers 34-16 (3rd in West), Hornets 32-19 (5th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.4 (2nd in NBA), Hornets 105.4 (22nd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.1 (11th in NBA), Hornets 102.1 (3rd in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Hornets: Chris Paul, Marco Belinelli, Quincy Pondexter, David West, Jason Smith
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes & Theo Ratliff (both out); Hornets: Trevor Ariza & Emeka Okafor (both out)
The Road Ahead: Today is game one of 7 seven game, eleven day “Grammy” road trip for the Lakers. Personally – and as a guy that doesn’t have to travel with the team, pack a bunch of bags, miss family, and sleep in a different bed every night – I love long road trips for the team. It gives the group a chance to get away from their comfort zones of home life and engulf themselves in basketball in an environment where, for the most part, only the team exists. Obviously the Lakers are a veteran group and their core guys have been together a long time, but trips like this still serve as a time to do a bit of bonding and hone in, as a group, on what needs to be done each and every day in order to win games.
Basically, this may be just what this team needs. After the Spurs game, despite the loss, I came away encouraged that the Lakers could be moving in the right direction. They showed better execution on defense and, despite missing a few more shots than normal, the offense moved the ball well. There are still several things that need improving – obviously – but if the Lakers bring that same type of focus and desire to these upcoming games I think they’ll do quite well. Only time will tell if I’m right, but I think there’s a good chance the Lakers use this trip to get “right” in some of the areas that they have not been in the past month or so.
The Hornets Coming in: Losers in three of their last four games, the Hornets have seen the momentum they had in winning 10 straight contests up to that point come to a grinding halt. They’ve suffered injuries to Ariza and Okafor and that’s greatly hampered their depth at positions that they weren’t that strong at to begin with. They’re now going to have to decide if they want to start rookie Quincy Pondexter or veteran Willie Green at SF and are nearly forced to start third year veteran Jason Smith at Center. Needless to say those guys don’t quite measure up to the players they’re replacing in the line up.
All that said, this team is still 5th in the West and are continue to be carried by the excellent Chris Paul (a strong MVP candidate) and the consistently strong David West. With those two playing their typical brand of ball this team has a chance in any game. The Hornets are still making their hay with their top notch defense and it all starts with Paul’s ability to pressure ball handlers, get steals, and take teams out of their comfort zones when they try and run their sets. So far, this has been a winning formula that has them 13 games over .500 and if you really look at this roster, you have to wonder how they’re at that level. Again, this is why Paul is a serious MVP candidate.
Hornets Blogs: Hornets 24/7 has got you covered. Also check out At The Hive for news and notes on this time.
Keys to game: Even if Okafor were able to play and not out with a strained oblique, I’d say the Lakers need to attack the Hornets interior with Bynum and Gasol. So, with him out, this strategy should be stressed even more. Smith and West will struggle with Bynum and Gasol so the Lakers need to take advantage by featuring their bigs on the block by repeatedly going into the post and making the Hornets show their hand early in how the plan to play the Lakers bigs. If the Hornets go with single coverage, Pau and Bynum should have a field day with standard post ups to their jump hooks and turn around jumpers. If the Hornets send doubles, the Lakers wings need to be aware of where the double is coming from and cut behind the helping defender to create an angle to get to the front of the rim. Either way, the Lakers need to exploit the soft middle of the Hornets and make them pay for whatever defensive strategy they employ.
As for slowing the Hornets, this is something still completely dependent on limiting the effectiveness of Chris Paul. There’s not a player in the league better at getting to his spots than Paul and the Lakers must work as a team to try and limit his ability to do so. Because when Paul maneuvers his way around the floor the way that he likes it completely compromises the D by forcing help and opening up his teammates to get the open shots that they can knock down when defenders are late to rotate back. Nowhere is this more true than on the P&R where Paul loves to come tight off the screen and then slow up to get his defender on his back to gain the advantage that he then will use to try and get to the FT line area to either shoot his jumper or dish to the roll man (normally West popping out on an angle for his mid range jumper) or to the wing for a three pointer by Belinelli. So, the Lakers must be attentive and quick to show help on Paul while also getting back to their man or rotating on the back line to cover for each other.
The other threat is obviously David West. West loves to work at the elbow and left block where he can use his face up jumper to set up his good first step to attack the basket. He’s comfortable shooting the ball out to 20 feet so the Lakers must respect his range while also honoring his first step. He’s not an easy cover by any means, but Gasol and Odom have the size and quickness to be able to cover him more effectively than other PF’s around the league. This bears out in his numbers against the Lakers this year as he’s scoring over 3 points lower and shooting 5% worse in his two games vs. LA this year. The Lakers need to continue this trend by closing out hard on his right hand and then rotating behind with a second big to contest him at the rim if he puts the ball on the floor.
A couple of big picture things to look for is how well the Hornets control their defensive glass and how much they try and push the pace. The Hornets are one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the league but are facing one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the Lakers. With Okafor out, we’ll see if they can continue to control their own backboards. If they can’t the Lakers will get a lot of easy buckets off put backs and that could easily end up being the difference in this game. As for pace, the Hornets play at one of the slowest in the league. However, playing a walk it up style plays right into the Lakers hands as the size of Bynum, Gasol, and Odom will be a lot for the Hornets to deal with in a half court setting. Will Paul try to push the ball more tonight than normal to try and beat LA’s bigs down the floor? The Lakers may need to account for this change in strategy and be better at racing back if he does.
In the end, this game is important because the Lakers would love to get their road trip off on the right foot. A win tonight helps them get some momentum going into next weeks games versus the Grizz and then the rematch with the Celtics. We don’t want to look too far ahead, of course, but a win tonight would be a great stepping stone. Let’s go get it.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time out west on KCAL. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.
chris h says
we need us some Warren mojo!
Darius Soriano says
UDATE: It’s being reported that Jason Smith is out with an illness. Aaron Gray will start in his place. Odds are we’ll also see more Mbenga tonight as he’s their only other big man besides Gray. The Lakers really need to go inside with that group of bigs getting major minutes.
Hope that we see this steady diet of Pau and Bynum getting the ball inside the paint. NOH have no answer for our bigs
Wow … if you want to give the Lakers fits, you could do worse than to sign Sasha Pavlovic and Jarrett Jack.
Phil brings Kobe back in at beginning of 2nd. hasnt done that much
Does David West ever miss that jumper?
A freakin 3 pointer to end the quarter.
arsehole commentator celebrating an illeagal screen that injures fish
The Lakers shouldn’t be struggling to stop this hornets lineup
When did the Hornets trade for Dirk Nowitzki?
well they wont stay that hot..probably
They are hitting every shot right now…and these commentators are terrible.
Commentators like these actually make me miss Joel and Stu. Good grief.
Lakers D making everyone on NOH look like sharpshooters atm.
Where has this Pau Gasol been for the past 3 months? I know he isn’t playing against a quality big but his shots and offensive moves have looked polished.
Someone other than Kobe and Pau must step up in order to win the game.
Darius Soriano says
Kind of incredible how many shots the Hornets were hitting in that 3rd period…
OT: Congratulations to the Cavs! That’s some impressive stuff.
Where did Phil hide Pau Gasol for that 6min span of the 4th quarter
Pau and Kobe put this team on their backs tonight
LOL the NO commentator just called Kobe #8.
oh and they are a tiny bit biased…
30 and 30 for Kobe and Pau. Can they make it 40 and 40? Last duo to do it was Jordan and Pippen.
24 straight loses by the Cavs, I repeat, 24 straight loses. What a bunch of losers lolololol
>oh and they are a tiny bit biased…
Down 7 with 20 seconds to go, they just said “The Hornets do have life here”. There’s hope, then there’s…that.
Hornets dont have enough firepower or size to beat the Lakers, they do not worry me at all.
Lakers win great start to the road trip
nice win. good active hands down the stretch for our guys to get some key stops. special props to fish for multiple deflections and the decisive charge he drew against cp3.
Well kind of an interesting game to watch.
Pau Gasol hasn’t look that active, confident, and aggressive in a long time. He scored in just about every possible way.
Kobe efficiently scored and tried to get others involved (sometimes it worked others it didn’t).
A Win is a win.
The bench was unreliable tonight.
Defensively the Lakers still struggled. The Hornets continually got open shots (especially in the 3rd Q).
Playing such a close game against a team without 3 significant contributors.
Overall, this game was about getting a win and in my opinion getting Pau some confidence and swagger back.
Artest, Fish, and Shannon with very active hands on the defensive end tonight.
The Dude Abides says
Decent road win against a short-handed team. I’d like to see more of what happened in the 4th quarter — a little less doubleteaming of the likes of Mbenga and Gray by our guards, and a little better tracking of the opposition’s shooters. I also think that Drew is going to his left hand a little too often. He used to do an up-and-under move where he would try a short, right-handed bank shot from the left side that was pretty reliable. His left hand is a little too unreliable, and unnecessary against both shorter defenders and tall non-shotblockers like Aaron Gray.
Darius Soriano says
The game recap is up.