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NBA Playoffs: Look for the stars to come out in New Orleans

Apr 22, 2011, 8:02 PM EDT

New Orleans Hornets Paul drives on Los Angeles Lakers Bryant during Game 2 of their NBA Western Conference first round playoff basketball game in Los Angeles Reuters

Our first word of advice for this game — wear sunglasses. Yes, we know you are watching on television. But the Hornets are going with a “sea of yellow” look (all the fans getting yellow T-shirts) and it will the Hornets uniforms themselves (they got permission to wear the alternate yellow jerseys). It will be like looking into the sun. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

You want to save those retinas because this should be a game to watch.

Because this is a big game where the big stars may well be the key.

Often in big road games, Kobe Bryant comes out aggressive and tries to shut the crowd up himself with a fast start. Sometimes it works, but it also can take the Lakers out of their flow. Just to reiterate the point everyone knows — the Lakers strength is their length and skill on the front line and the triangle is much better working inside out. Not that there will not be a time for Kobe to do his thing, but he has to play well with others.

You can bet Chris Paul is going to come out with that same kind of fire. If the Lakers try to defend him as individuals as they did in Game 1, he will carve them up again. Paul has flat out been the best player in this series. The Lakers big men are key here, they cut off his angles of attack off the pick-and-roll well in Game 2. You can bet Paul will adjust. Or he could just get hot draining jumpers.

You’re also not going to see a full night of Kobe on CP3, fighting over the top of picks. But you can bet Kobe will be on him for key stretches.

The guy who may be the real key is the Lakers No. 2 option — Pau Gasol.

The Hornets have kept him in check through two games — he has averaged 8 points per game on 21.1 percent shooting. The Lakers are not going to win games in New Orleans without more from him. Expect the Lakers to run some screens along the baseline to get Gasol more room to catch the ball without having to fight Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry for space. Expect to see Gasol put the ball on the floor a little more and try to get to the line. If he gets going the Hornets will have a hard time containing the Lakers attack. If the Hornets can keep him uncomfortable they have a real chance.

One other thought — best bench may get its team enough of a lead that the starters will hold it.

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