Tag:2011 Lakers-Hornets
Posted on: April 28, 2011 11:28 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 1:26 am

Series in Review: Lakers-Hornets

Posted by Royce Young

Series MVP: Andrew Bynum

Yep, not Kobe. Bynum, often a critical figure in the Laker starting five, was big -- literally and figuratively -- for Los Angeles these six games. He averaged a double-double, capping it with an 18-point, 12-rebound, two-block performance in the deciding game. There was a big opportunity for Bynum because of the Hornets' lack of quality size inside, and Bynum exploited it all six games. Bynum has become the cornerstone to Laker success in the postseason and he's off to a pretty good start, I'd say.

Best Play: Kobe crams over Okafor

Just the statement this made was almost jarring. Kobe, coming into the game on a sprained ankle that had everyone talking about his availability and effectiveness, rose above one of the league's top shot blockers and stuffed it. The message was sent early in Game 5 -- this series was not coming back to Staples.

Best Play Runner-Up: Chris Paul twists Bynum up

CP3 is just a wizard with the ball in his hands. Like, seriously, I think he has powers in those hands that aren't natural to this world. The way he subtlety brought his off-hand up to mimic a shot was brilliant. Only CP3. 

Biggest Disappointment: Pau Gasol

Matched against an inferior front line, Gasol was entirely absent in Games 1 and 2. Really, there was no excuse. In Game 1, it actually looked as if Gasol didn't realize he was playing. He was going through motions, just timidly jogging up and down the floor. He fumbled a big pass from Kobe in crunch time out of bounds and actually had people comparing him to Kwame Brown for a minute. He straightened himself out with three solid games to close, but he can do better. And he'll have to if the Lakers want a third straight title.

Best Moment: "I'd hit my mama..."

Kobe and Chris Paul are widely known as good friends off the court. But CP3 sent a little message in Game 4 with a hard foul on Kobe. The two bumped a bit after the play and had words. After the game, Cheryl Miller asked Paul about it and he delivered an excellent line. "I'd hit my mama too if she was out on the court."

Worst Moment: The absence of David West

Hard not to think about what this series might've looked like with David West on the floor for these six games. Not just having a better body inside to take on the Lakers' frontline, but giving Paul his scoring buddy to rely on in the pick-and-roll would've been huge. I'm not going to say this series would've been different in terms of the final result, but at least the Hornets would've had a better chance.

Best Performance: CP3's Game 4

Goodness. 27-15-13. Or 23-7-6 in the second half. Paul was on another planet that night. He was fantastic in Game 1, good in Game 2, great in Games 3, 5 and 6. But that Game 4 was one for the ages. A tremendous, terrific, wonderful effort that illustrated just how amazing Chris Paul is.

Best Game: Game 1

There wasn't exactly a classic in this series, meaning any game that came down to a final possession or a big shot. But Game 1 in Los Angeles definitely had the biggest moments and swings. CP3 was great, Kobe was drilling big shots, and the Hornets were stunning everyone. It was one of the most enjoyable games of what was one of the most amazing opening weekends of the playoffs we've seen in a while.
Posted on: April 28, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 1:07 am

Grading the series: Lakers finish Hornets in 6

Posted by Royce Young

The Lakers put away the Hornets in six games with a 98-80 win in New Orleans. Time to pull out the red pen and mark up this test.


Kobe Bryant: A bit up and down for Kobe. He averaged better than 22 points per game and had good percentages, but in the Lakers' losses, he was a bit erratic. He was bad in Game 2, but the Lakers handled the Hornets easily that night. In Game 5, he wasn't, and L.A. lost by five. But a commendable effort battling through an ankle sprain to not only score the ball, but defend Chris Paul. Kobe wasn't great, but even in his mediocrity, he was pretty darn good.

Grade: B

Pau Gasol: He woke up in the final three games, but for Games 1 and 2, he was so average that people were actually wondering if Marc was the better of the two. Pau was just so disengaged. He wasn't into it. He floated. It was frustrating to watch, mainly because of the Hornets depleted front line. I mean, look at who Gasol was going against. Aaron Gray, Jason Smith, Carl Landry and D.J. Mbenga. Not exactly players that should be stopping him. He responded well the last three, but still, those weren't the dominant games you'd expect from a player as gifted as Gasol. He needs to be better.

Grade: C

Andrew Bynum: I said it in this other piece, but Bynum was the MVP of this series. He played six very good games, was involved, aggressive and locked in on both ends. He took advantage of the Hornets inside group and scored in double-figures every game. He was the dominant big man he's supposed to be.

Grade: A

Overall grade: Should this series have taken six games? Absolutely not. Did the Lakers reveal a good number of holes and make a lot of people rightfully question their ability to win a third straight title? Without a doubt. But they also won the series, and don't forget that the Hornets had one of the very few players in basketball that has the ability to win games against anyone all on his own. The Lakers weren't great, but they were good enough.

Grade: B


Chris Paul: Like a cold-handed slap in the face, CP3 reminded everyone that he is, indeed, still the best point guard in basketball. He was downright terrifying. His Game 6 was a complete disappointment, but the weight of carrying a depleted roster against one of the premier teams in the league gets heavy. I mean the Hornets won two games against the defending champs with Chris Paul and four ball boys on the floor at one time. That's impressive. I give him a pass for the Game 6 clunker.

Grade: A

NOLA front line: For a second there, we were all shocked at the words coming out of our mouths. Aaron Gray... important? But things came back down to reality. This was obviously the biggest mismatch on the floor, and while Emeka Okafor battled valiantly along with Gray, Carl Landry, Mbenga and Jason Smith, they just weren't hanging inside. The Lakers dominated the paint, owned the glass and overwhelmed the Hornets.

Grade: C+

Monty Williams: This was Williams' first trip into the postseason as a head man and I'd say he got his group as well prepared as it could be to take on a team that is head and shoulders above. He used the Lakers' strength against them, exploiting mismatches on switches. With Paul and Jarrett Jack together in the backcourt, the Lakers had a hard time matching up. It was a solid gameplan, but it was only destined to work for so long.

Another plus for Williams though was his willingness to go deep into his bench for help. Too few coaches do this in big games. Williams wasn't afraid to trust players that didn't have a ton of playing time to their name this season. This was partly because his options were limited, but he didn't hang on to his rotations, which I thought was good.

Grade: B+

Overall grade: Stealing Game 1 was shocking. Taking another was even more jarring, and it actually had us wondering if the Hornets had a chance. Think about that. Before this series, no one -- not even Hornets' fans -- saw this matchup as anything more than opening round fodder for the Lakers. The Hornets were just breakfast, as LeBron would say.

Instead of that happening, the Hornets found themselves in a VERY important Game 5 in Los Angeles, a place they had already won. Pull off that game and there's a real chance at an upset. Regardless, winning two games -- one in Staples -- was an impressive feat for this underdog.

Overall grade: A-

Posted on: April 28, 2011 4:52 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2011 5:06 pm

Kobe gets foul on Okafor upgraded to flagrant 1

Posted by Royce Young

According to the Lakers, via ESPN LA, the NBA has upgraded a foul by Kobe Bryant on Emeka Okafor from Game 5 to a flagrant 1.

The foul came with 3:14 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Lakers 106-90 win over the Hornets.

Are we sure the NBA didn't just get confused and give Kobe a flagrant for his dunk on Okafor? Because that was just wrong. Nasty, dirty, awesomely wrong.

Hornets' coach Monty Williams wasn't thrilled with the overly physical play and singled out Shannon Brown specifically.

"I know it's going to be a physical game, but I thought they swung at us a few times last game," Williams told reporters. "I thought Shannon should've been ejected, and if he's not going to be ejected, he shouldn't be able to play tonight. When you throw your elbow like that at a guy, I know the rule is you have to connect, but if he connects, that's a fight. It could turn into more stuff. So I expect a physical game, but I expect a fair game. That's how we play."

With the series returning to New Orleans and a rabid crowd ready to roar, I would bet on some fireworks inside the arena tonight. The Hornets clearly took issue with some of the hard Laker fouls. I'm sure Carl Landry has been sharpening those elbows a bit today.
Posted on: April 28, 2011 3:49 pm

Kobe misses shootaround, could get heavy minutes

Posted by Royce Young

Kobe Bryant missed Laker shootaround today and did not speak with reporters. Of course the reason being his ailing left ankle.

Kobe played 29 minutes in the Lakers' Game 5 win and ripped off two pretty fantastic dunks. However, the ankle still isn't 100 percent and according to reports. Bryant was seen limping around a bit following shootaround.
But that doesn't mean Kobe will be taking things easy. Via ESPN LA, Phil Jackson indicated Kobe could be seeing heavy minutes during tonight's potential close-out game of the Hornets.

"This is a game we'll go all out to win and if it's 40 minutes we'll do it," Jackson told reporters. "We're certainly not out of the woods on this situation, just because he had to play the day after, or two days after he sprained his ankle."

Would we expect anything less from Kobe? From refusing MRIs to dunking over a shot-blocker on a bum ankle, this is what Kobe does. Wouldn't shock anyone a bit if he dropped 40 tonight to finish off the Hornets. At least it wouldn't me.

Posted on: April 28, 2011 9:40 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 9:45 am

Playoff Fix: Hornets-Lakers Game 6

The Los Angeles Lakers can advance to the second round with a Game 6 win over the New Orleans Hornets. Posted by Ben Golliver.

One Big Thing: After a lackadaisical and lost Game 1 effort that allowed 109 New Orleans points, the Los Angeles Lakers have locked in on defense, holding the Hornets to an average of 85.5 points in Games 2 through 5. Playoff basketball always starts on the defensive end, and the Lakers have proven that in this series, doing their best to win the battle on the glass and contain a plucky, overachieving and fearless Hornets team to take a 3-2 series lead. In Game 5, the Lakers were able to force 19 Hornets turnovers, a number that isn't sustainable for New Orleans if it hopes to stave off elimination at home in Thursday night's Game 6. 

The X-Factor: In a series with such a disparity in talent, length and bulk in the frontcourt, it's been a bit surprising to see how closely tied L.A.'s success has been to Kobe Bryant's performance. In Game 5, Bryant changed the complexion of the game with two monstrous dunks. His teammates obviously fed off of the spark, playing more loosely and with that Laker swag/confidence that has been absent for much of this series. All five Lakers starters scored in double figures and shot 50% or better, reaching a level of balance that is simply overwhelming for New Orleans, who can match Bryant with Chis Paul but have no answer for the Lakers 2-8. The overlooked aspect of Game 5? Bryant scored just 19 points and played only 29 minutes. He's got plenty left in the tank for Game 6, despite the tweaked ankle.

The Adjustment: It's been an ongoing process, but the Lakers have begun to lean more heavily on their interior tandem of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum offensively. Their combined point totals in Games 1 through 5: 21, 23, 31, 27, 34. Game 5 was really the model they'll look to reproduce in Game 6, as the 34 combined points came on just 23 attempts and included 12 combined trips to the foul line. Getting to the stripe on the road is generally a difficult proposition, but the Lakers were able to bully their way to 24 free throw attempts in Game 3 and 30 in Game 4. They shot 30 free throws again in Game 5 and will look to continue the parade in Game 6. New Orleans has three possible hopes here: L.A. reverts to ignoring its bigs in the halfcourt offense, Gasol shrinks back to his Invisible Man form from game 1, or Bynum gets in early foul trouble himself.

The Sticking Point: The Lakers' intensity level has been up and down this series, and they'll be walking into a cauldron in Game 6. Hornets fans, uncertain of their team's future, have been out in full force throughout the series, and Paul has ranged from amazing to spectacular through the first five games. One of the league's great competitors, Paul has already delivered the "this is all or nothing" quote in advance of Thursday night's game and has made his appeal to the home fans. The Hornets haven't looked afraid of the defending champions once during this series and Paul and company won't go down without a fight. 
Posted on: April 27, 2011 1:53 am
Edited on: April 27, 2011 2:10 am

Lakers hit their form in Game 5 win over Hornets

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 series lead. Posted by Ben Golliver.

The Los Angeles Lakers have come and gone multiple times already this series, but they were back again on Tuesday night, polishing off the New Orleans Hornets, 106-90, to take a 3-2 series lead.  

The Game 5 headlines will go to Kobe Bryant's dunks, as well they should. On two separate occasions, Bryant displayed the aggression, athleticism, agility and opportunism that turned him into a Jordanesque global icon. First, he banged hard on Hornets center Emeka Okafor; then, he cruised past Hornets forward Carl Landry for a crafty lefty flush.  

Dunks aside, this was L.A.'s most impressive performance of the series, because they took a very solid punch from the Hornets and didn't flinch. The Hornets came out firing and didn't look back. They got big nights from all the guys they've needed to get points from; Trevor Ariza (22 points) and Marco Belinelli (21 points) in particular. More important than the output was the efficiency: New Orleans hit nearly half of their three-point tries and shot 49.3% from the field. Aside from some shaky foul shooting, the Hornets were about as good as they could have hoped to be on a night when Chris Paul (20 points and 12 assists) was merely excellent rather than transcendent.

The Lakers clearly rose to the challenge, inviting the back-and-forth, up-and-down exchanges. All five Lakers starters scored in double figures, as did Lamar Odom ... and those numbers were representative. Bryant got a bit of extra rest for his sprained left ankle in the first half, and it was a team effort to fill in the gaps. The ball was moving, the big men were finally pounding the rim regularly, and Ron Artest and Derek Fisher were doing enough to stretch the floor. This was the Lakers starting unit -- on both ends -- that strikes fear in people's hearts. They dominated the rebounds 42-25 -- as they should -- and won the battle for second chance points by an astonishing 22-2.

Perhaps the biggest win for L.A., though, was Bryant's playing time. Given the Lakers' double-digit lead late, and Jackson's early rotation tweak, Bryant played just 28 minutes. If his ankle was an issue, and it certainly didn't seem like it when he was looking down on Okafor, Bryant leaves Game 5 not only with the highlight reel dunks, but also with a bit of extra rest that's precious this time of year.

The Lakers are playing on their own timeline, clearly indifferent to outside expectations or pressure. They've flipped switches on and off at will over the last week. Will they show up to Game 6 on Thursday to lay the hammer down? Does Paul have one final Magic act up his sleeve? 

Those remain open, good questions. But L.A.'s Game 5 performance served as a not-so-gentle reminder that it will take a minor miracle for the Hornets to send them to an early offseason.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 11:49 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 12:24 am

Kobe Bryant dunks on Emeka Okafor video

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant throws down the dunk of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Posted by Ben Golliver.

We have a clear winner for the best dunk of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. During the second quarter of Game 5 between the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets, Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant elevated like it was 1999. 

With the Lakers trailing 44-40, Bryant collected a kick out pass from Lakers forward Pau Gasol at the top of the key. Hornets forward Trevor Ariza was caught out of position and Bryant attacked the paint at full speed. With none of New Orleans' bigs stepping up to stop his penetration, Bryant simply decided to go airborne. Hornets center Emeka Okafor, a shot-blocking specialist, attempted to contest Bryant's dunk attempt, but it was too little, too late. Bryant threw down a vicious one-handed slam over Okafor. 

Here's video of Bryant putting Okafor on the poster.

Entering the game, there was talk about whether Bryant would be able to be effective on his sprained left ankle. I guess we have our answer.

Update: In the third quarter, Bryant did it again, blowing by Ariza off the dribble to throw down a left-handed slam dunk over Hornets forward Carl Landry.

Here's video.

Posted on: April 26, 2011 5:05 pm

Kobe refuses MRI and X-ray, likely to play

Posted by Royce Young

Kobe Bryant doesn't want to hear any bad news. So he's putting his fingers in his ears and saying "la la la la la."

After spraining his ankle in Game 4 against the Hornets, Bryant was expected to receive and X-ray and MRI to make sure there was no structural damage on it. Instead, Kobe said thanks but no thanks.

Via ESPN LA, Kobe refused both. He's likely to play according to Phil Jackson, but nobody knows what kind of damage there is to Kobe's ankle. Obviously the reason for it is, Kobe plans on playing no matter what his status is and he doesn't want some team doctor telling the front office he's risking further injury. So to avoid any chance of being held out, Kobe passed on both tests.

It's probably pretty stupid, but it's also very Kobe. Not only does it make him sound like a tough, play-through-anything player which is great PR, but it also speaks to what he really is -- a tough, play-through-anything player.

Kobe did not speak with reporters Monday or Tuesday, but Jackson acted like it was no doubt Bryant would play. "He's very hopeful," he said. As far as how healthy he is, Jackson said, "It will be a game-thing, who knows?"

With the Hornets evening the series at 2-2, Kobe doesn't feel like he can risk anything. Who knows how effective he'll be and if he'll guard Chris Paul again. I would think that would be difficult considering how quickly Paul can change directions.

But just having him on the floor is a boost to the team and everyone in the arena. He's making a statement to his guys right here. Doesn't matter what the MRI would've said. It could say I tore every ligament in my ankle. I'm playing. Whether or not that turns out to be a good decision is yet to be seen. But even a 60 percent Kobe is pretty much better than any replacement the Lakers would roll out there.
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