When it comes to the playoffs the most important game is the next one. As a series evolves each game becomes the most meaningful for each team as the stakes get raised and elimination is one step closer. Game 3 is no different as it offers both teams an opportunity to take control of this series. For the Hornets this game can put the Lakers on their heels again and give them the leg up with a 2-1 series lead and a crucial game 4 on their home court on Sunday. For the Lakers, this game is the chance to put the series right back in their hands by seizing home court advantage back and continuing the momentum they established in game 2.
In order to capture this all important swing game, some keys I’ll be looking for:
*Sustained effort. If the Lakers had any thoughts about this series being a walk they were quickly erased after getting steamrolled by Chris Paul and crew in game 1. The difficulty this match up poses was only reinforced after a hard fought, physical game 2. In order to win that game, the Lakers needed to play hard the entire game, pushing through rough patches and holding off a feisty Hornets group that made several mini-runs that had the game too close for comfort for most of the 48 minutes. Tonight, the Lakers must bring an even more focused approach and energy to win on the road. The Hornets and their crowd will be bursting with energy and ready to run through brick walls to win this game. The Lakers will need to match that early energy and keep the game close – or better yet take that energy away by starting out fast themselves. This group is experienced in such games and understand the stakes, so I expect them to be prepared. That said, a road environment in the playoffs has the potential to knock even the most poised team off stride. The Lakers will need to dig in their heels, take that initial hit, and then hit back with a sustained effort of their own to pull this game out.
*Defense by committee. In game 2 the Lakers’ better execution of their defensive scheme had a big part in limiting Chris Paul’s success. But another key in (relatively) containing Paul was the fact that the Lakers threw multiple primary defenders at Paul to consistently keep a fresh body on him while also giving him different styles of defense to deal with. Kobe, Fisher, Blake, and Artest all took turns on Paul and in game 3 I expect a similar approach. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Kobe spends chasing Paul over and around screens and denying him off the ball as the energy expended on that side of the ball takes its toll when trying to be effective on the other side, but I do expect to see Kobe strategically play the Hornets’ best player (and really, the best player – so far – in this series) to try and take him out of this game. I also expect to see Blake get more chances on Paul to see if he can duplicate the success he had in game 2. If New Orleans goes to a small line up with a Paul/Jarrett Jack back court, I don’t doubt that we could see Blake/Fisher or Blake/Kobe for extended minutes to match that unit to give Steve his shot. All that said, it will still take a team effort to slow down CP3. The Lakers bigs must stay true to their principles by taking the right angles and not haphazardly give up space to allow Paul to probe his way to the painted area. Bynum, Gasol, and Odom must all be prepared to pounce on drives into the lane and contest the short shots and floaters that Paul thrived on in game 1.
*An aggressive Kobe. Look, we all know that the 10 FGA version of Kobe isn’t long for this series so we might as well embrace that fact right now. In game 1, Kobe came out looking for his shot and carried the Laker offense for long stretches while nearly every one of his teammates faltered. In game 2 he was intent on getting everyone else involved early and while that helped Bynum, Ron, and Odom get going, it – along with his aforementioned approach on defense – also left him grasping for an offensive rhythm of his own that proved elusive. Tonight, I expect to see Kobe find a better balance on offense and that means a more aggressive approach throughout the contest. He’s already told Phil that he’ll look to put up more than 10 shots, and I could easily see him starting the game in attack mode, looking to get to the basket where he can not only score but set up his teammates. Remember, Kobe has a history of going for the throat in road games and it’s always been his m.o. to try and step up his game when the venues turn hostile. In the Lakers four game 3’s last year he scored 24, 35, 36, and 29 points so it wouldn’t surprise to see him go for a similar number tonight in order to try and take the crowd out of the game while also putting his imprint on the contest. For what it’s worth, I’m fine with this approach. One of Kobe’s best qualities is the fact that he knows the dynamics of a game and a series as well as any great player ever. If he’s able to control this game from the outset, it will go a long way in shaping the rest of this series.
*A productive bench. Game 2 served as a nice reminder of the Lakers depth and how they have multiple players that can affect the game positively. Forget Ron, Bynum, and Odom as they’re essentially starters that play in the shadows of Kobe and Gasol. There’s an expectation that those guys can produce when called upon and game 2 was their time. Tonight, it’s very important that Blake, Barnes, and Brown can also have good games. Blake must continue to get the 2nd unit organized. Barnes must continue to run the floor, slash off the ball, and rebound. And Shannon needs to play within himself, avoid contested jumpers, and attack the basket (I’d love to see him turn the corner in a hand off sequence and simply try to dunk on whoever is in the lane). This has been a bit of a trying year for Brown and like my past critiques a couple of reserve guards that now play in New Jersey, I’ve been a hard critic of him as the season has progressed. But, I still believe that Shannon has good, disciplined ball in him and that he’ll show it in one game soon. Hopefully it’s tonight’s.
The last time the Lakers found themselves in a series tied 1-1 was last year’s Finals. That group went to Boston in that fateful game 3 and pulled out a win down the stretch with the heroics of Derek Fisher sealing the deal. This team knows how important a 2-1 lead in a series is and also understand how a road victory can deflate the opposition to set up how the rest of the series will play out. I have full confidence that the Lakers will be ready to compete and give their all. Here’s to them pulling it out and getting this series back into their hands.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time out west on KCAL and ESPN.
lil' pau says
Warren. Let’s go, Lakers!
This is a big game.
If the Lakers lose, I think they will still win this series, but I do think a loss tonight would be a strong indicator that they are not going all the way again.
Paul is great, but this is a team they should handle.
Me and my friend were talking and we both think the Hornets will win this one. The Lakers are not playing their best and I don’t think this is the game where they turn it on. I think they win game 4 in a close one to tie the series and then kill them in game 5 to take a series lead. Finally, I think we will close it out in game 6. This is a must win situation for the Hornets, if they lose this game, they don’t have a shot. They know that and I think they play really well and win tonight. My prediction!!
Lakers should take this game as easly as the last one. I do not see what adjustment the Hornets can make to keep Bynum or Lamar from doing whatever they want. Also the chances of Pau playing poorly 3 straight games seems remote.
“I do not see what adjustment the Hornets can make to keep Bynum or Lamar from doing whatever they want”
1) Try to get Bynum in foul trouble by taking the ball inside, and flopping, and
2) Hope that Kobe tries to do too much on offense (Paul getting off to a good start increases the likelihood of that)
1. They can try, but they have been trying, it works both ways ( see. Oakfor)
2. The can hope he does, but agian that is not something they control.
To some degree they can control it, by which plays they run. Force Bynum to make plays on defense, and when he has the ball on offense, try to draw fouls.
The Lakers are clearly more talented, but they are also their own worst enemies. The question is how to activate those bad tendencies.
True, I guess it is like every year for us Laker fans. When they play hard and run the offense they win period. Enjoy the game
Lou, the Lakers did not play well in game 2. The Hornets helped them out shooting terribly from the foul line and with some careless turnovers. Don’t expect that in game 3. The Lakers will have to play much better than they did in game 2 in order to win tonight.
team play says
Question: why cant we put shannon brown on Chris Paul? Shannon was brought in to be a good PG defender, with his big hands, athleticism, and speed. How come we all mention kobe and blake guarding CP3, but not shannon brown?
Chris J says
@ team play — There are many reasons, but the largest is because Shannon has essentially forced Phil to keep him on the bench as much as possible by his absolutely horrific play on the offensive side of the floor.
It’s been beaten to death here in recent posts, but that post, re-post exchange with Bynum the other night was the one time in recent memory in which Shannon has played the half-court game properly. And even then he followed it up almost immediately with rushed, bad outside shots. He just doesn’t seem to get it, which is a shame.
He can’t stay on the floor when he just kills the offense through turnovers or wasted possessions.
Andreas G. says
I really want to see Pau show some signs tonight. These two first games are among the worst that I’ve seen him play. My conclusion is that the bone bruise has to be bothering him – he didn’t finish the regular season strong either..
chris h says
I think the Lakers will get tonights game, and take back home court, then get overconfident on Sunday, (and we’re historically bad on Sunday’s) and the Hornets even the series on Sunday.
we win game 5 at home and close out winning game 6 on the road.
then the team will have woken up, and will win the west.
Andreas G. says
Kobe looks extremly focused – good sign!
Because Shannon Brown is a terrible defender.
I can see that the refs turning a blind eye to Kobe in the post shall continue…sigh.
EDIT: Then he gets a call. LOL.
very bad travel call on pau
Andreas G. says
A lot more energy from the Lakers so far, and really – that’s all they need to win this. I like what I’m seeing so far.
I like the energy for the Lakers tonight.
🙂 Andreas I posted the same thing before seeing your post.
Absolutely sick, Kobe. WOW.
wooh! didnt kobe could still get up like that, also very impressed with artest so far
Andreas G. says
Kobe looking great. The weird thing with Pau is that his jumper is also gone…I’m baffled.
Why is kobe wasting his energy guarding Ariza? Kobe is getting torched and Artest is more than capable of defending Ariza by playing physical with him.
Andreas G. says
VoR: Great minds think alike;)
Fisher crosses over Paul and FINISHES AT THE RIM!
Left wing give-and-go is money tonight.
does anyone make more flukey shots than ariza
Andreas G. says
Bynum is so great that it’s not even fair.
BYNUM all day. keep giving him the ball.
Bynum is an animal. NO has no answer for him down low.
The NBA. Where Andrew Bynum happens.
I have seen the future of the Los angeles lakers and his name is Andrew Bynum
Hubie brown is the absolute worst.
He never shuts up, overanalyzes
every play. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhh
Gasol is playing like he had some kind
Of head trauma and forgot who he is
and how he can play
@ 33, Maxnyc: As long as he can remain healthy.
Andreas G. says
Maxnyc: While I agree that he isn’t having a great game by no means, he does look better than in the first two. Baby steps;)
#36. Yes Ofcourse.
fish on paul aint gonna work but good half overall
@36 – this is kinda coming and and coming out for me but….
Hey, Lakers are hustling 🙂
Lakers have too much talent for anyone to do about it. Its just that the only reason we lose is because we don’t hustle.
Is it just me or did Kobe look like he was walking pretty gingerly near the end of that half and into the locker room? Seems like he may have tweaked something?
This stream has been working well so far:
@ 43, Drew: Recognized it also. Hopefully that lazy walk-off was just do to slight fatigue.
Other than that, solid 1st half. Everyone is seems tuned in and engaged … I love the fact that we’re turning Paul into their primary scorer, which means no one else is involved offensively … Keep feeding the Bigs. Eventually NO will crack
i knew brown and tirico jinxed him
46. I said the same damn thing right after they mentioned his knee.
OK, can we just trade Bynum now before I get a heart attack? LOL
Andreas G. says
Thank god for that brace!
how is that a tech????
ok lakers, get the ball back inside.
I’m sorry, but the refs have been killing us all night
WTF have the refs with Pau??
Pau Pau Pau Pau
keep trying dude
I just don’t understand the inconsistent officiating these days. There was a play when Landry drove on Odom for an and-1 and there was almost no contact. Later in the quarter Landry knocks barnes off balance in the open court and a non call. The League owns the Hornets right?
Darius Soriano says
This game is on the fence right now. If the Lakers can make a mini-run (4 or 5-0) they can take control. These first 5 minutes are going to be pretty important here.
can someone tell hubie how to say Gasol’s name please???
welcome to the series, pau!!! 🙂
Welcome back Pau.
pau is out of sync but i love that he is battling
Andreas G. says
Ok Pau’s back – game over.
Looks as if Pau is startin’ to get his Swag back.
Great few minutes by Pau.
And I’ve been impressed with the bench these last two games.
You’d think he’d know after coaching him for years. Apparently not.
this has been such a TEAM game today. everyone’s name is getting called.
love it. and PAU is battling!
Sixth Man Of The Year schoolin’ the young pup.
so far so good. now to withstand one or two runs and we’re good.
Barnes and Blake may only have 5 pts combined, but they’ve been playing pretty well.
It appears that the real Pau is back. If that is the case this series goes 6 max but probably 5.
all those who think ariza is really pissed at his agent from two years ago?
Great all around game. I am pleased.
If there was any question that LA’s greatest strength is the depth of it’s talent, the last 2 games put an end to it. When Pau and/or Kobe is struggling, Drew and Odom will step up. Drew gets tweaked? Pau comes back. Meanwhile Artest has found himself again. And the bench (Barnes and Blake more than Brown) is playing better than they have in months.
I just hope this doesn’t happen every 3 games for Drew. When he is on, he takes over the entire game. It’s so unfair for him not to get that chance consistently.
Andreas G. says
As long as Drew’s knee holds up, I suspect this team will be very tough to beat. Sure, Kobe and Pau can have the occasional off game – but in the end the Lakers are too tall, too talented and too experienced for just about any team.
Anyone else slightly amused that Joe Smith hit the floor but Luke didn’t?
Lakers 3 bigs = 30 rebounds. Average of 10 boards per big.
Kobe was Kobe
Although Artest didn’t have a big scoring game he continued to play well.
Glad to see Pau get the ball in the basket.
Fan of the site. Wrote a few comments in the past. One question:
Does anyone think that the injured finer Kobe has played with the past 1+ years is affecting his ball handling skills. I back the man, but I feel like I see him loose the handle on the ball in traffic, even though it’s not that bad.
I understand it, but kinda drives me crazy.
Pau’s back. Game over Hornets. Next up, Spurs? lol
kehntangibles – I was thinking “delighted” rather than “slightly amused”. But either way, I liked Luke staying on the bench. I propose 20 point leads before Luke gets on the floor. And less than 4 minutes on the clock.
77. Absolutely it has. Kobe already has kind of small hands and the inch tape definitely has affected his ball handling.
and Ken…Luke who? I almost forgot he was on the team until the camera showed the side of his face when kobe went to the bench at the end of the game.
Good overall effort by the lakers.
1st half was the Bynum and Kobe show, and the second half was the Pau and 3point shooters show. Kinda weird but New Orleans completely stopped attacking with about 6 minutes to go, after the Pau and Blake threes.
Happy with the win, but Bynum didn’t play the same post fall down, hope he doesnt have any residual damage…..
Worth remembering both Pau and Bynum had bone bruises to the knee in the last few weeks. I’ve never had one of those, and obviously they can play, but I’d imagine it’s easy to re-tweak. Hopefully, it’s the type of thing that stops hurting after a day of rest…
Bone bruises typically take 6-8 weeks to heal, but as long as they aren’t large they are play through-able… At least that’s what I’ve read o n the subject.
Good over all game. Andrew, Kobe and LO especially. Pau still look like he is not right. Running away from rebounds and Landry still pushing him around. Dark circles under his eyes leads me to believe there is something wrong. Not sure why Paul was not running offense in last quarter?
Hope guys stay away from Mean Streets and bars tomorrow night. Remember game 4 last year in Houston. Best game of the year for Walton. Not one missed shot or bad pass!
Phillip Barnett says
Game recap up: