Skip to content

NBA Playoffs: The Lakers get back on track

Apr 27, 2011, 2:36 AM EDT

New Orleans Hornets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Five Getty Images

There was no one matchup that swung in the Lakers’ favor on Tuesday night. There wasn’t one key play that ended up making all the difference late in the game, although Kobe Bryant‘s turn-back-the-clock dunk in the second quarter did help swing the momentum their way. There wasn’t a noticeable change in their offensive strategy, and they still had trouble containing Chris Paul. None of that ended up mattering.

As it turned out, the Lakers didn’t need to make any big adjustments to power through the New Orleans Hornets and take a 3-2 series lead — they simply needed to play the way everyone knows they are capable of playing. Even though the Hornets have managed to take two tough games from the Lakers in this series, and still have a chance to win two more if the Lakers stop executing and Chris Paul goes off again, Game Five showed that the Hornets don’t have any answers for the Lakers when they play their game. There’s a reason why it can be so frustrating to watch the Lakers when they lose — when they win, they make it look so easy.

Even though the Hornets were able to shoot the ball well against the Lakers, the defending champions outclassed them in every area. Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Ron Artest were able to manhandle the Hornets in the paint and on the boards. The Lakers scored 67 of their 106 points from the paint or the free-throw line, and outscored the Hornets 22-2 in second chance points.

After the game, Phil Jackson said that the “hustle points” went the Lakers’ way on Tuesday, and that the second-chance points were “the key to the win.” Hornets coach Monty Williams also noted that his team needs to figure out a way to match the Lakers’ physicality, saying “there was more focus to be physical” in Game 5 and that a lot of what occurred was “just not basketball, so it’s just one of those things we have to recognize that kind of play and overcome it.” Chris Paul also acknowledged the Hornets’ physicality, saying that the Hornets “need to figure out a way to play physical without fouling.” It will be hard for the Hornets to overcome the Lakers’ massive size advantage up front, but they will clearly need to figure something out in order to stay alive in this series.

Out on the perimeter, Kobe Bryant found the perfect balance between patience and aggression. He was content to run the offense and set up his teammates for most of the game, but he also had a few key scoring bursts, most notably at the end of the second quarter. After Bryant was called for a questionable continuation foul on Trevor Ariza, he came right back down the court and unleashed an electrifying dunk on Emeka Okafor that completely galvanized the Staples Center. After the game, Shannon Brown said that it was Kobe’s biggest dunk “since he had an afro,” and Kobe said that the dunk was a message to his teammates that “the series is important — they know I don’t have many of those left in me anymore.” Needless to say, Bryant’s ankle was much less of a concern after the game than it was before it.

Kobe and the Laker bigs had it going, and the Lakers’ role players did their part as well. The Lakers’ second unit didn’t shoot particularly well from the floor, but they were able to hit some timely threes, and their energy provided what Phil Jackson called “a major boost” to the Lakers when they checked in. When the Lakers are locked in like that on offense, there’s not much that a defense can do to slow them down.

Offensively, the Hornets didn’t do poorly by any stretch of the imagination. Chris Paul didn’t dominate the game like he did in the Hornets’ wins, but he still finished with 20 points on 12 shots and 12 assists. Marco Belinelli and Trevor Ariza shot as well as anyone can possibly expect Marco Belinelli and Trevor Ariza to shoot, and Willie Green continued to make impossible floaters. Even though the Hornets barely got any offensive production out of their bigs and turned the ball over 17 times, their loss was more a product of the Lakers’ offensive execution and dominance on the glass than anything they did wrong offensively.

As Trevor Ariza put it after the game, “[The Lakers] played well. There’s nothing that we can say. I don’t think we didn’t fight or we didn’t play well, I just feel like they played better than us. That’s it.” Unfortunately for the Hornets, there’s a lot of truth in what Ariza said. The Hornets are a scrappy team that plays good defense, has some outside shooting, and has Chris Paul, but there are reasons why the Lakers won 11 more games than the Hornets did in the regular season. The Lakers’ big men are both bigger and more skilled than the Hornet bigs, the Lakers are deeper than the Hornets are, and while Chris Paul has arguably outplayed Kobe in this series, Kobe is still Kobe.

The Hornets have put up a great fight in this series, and it’s hard to count them out with the way Chris Paul has been playing. However, it’s even harder to shake the feeling that if the Lakers play like this one more time in the next two games, there’s not going to be a lot that the Hornets can do to avoid elimination.

Latest Posts
  1. USA sails past New Zealand for easy 98-71 win behind Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried

    Sep 2, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Anthony Davis Anthony Davis

    Team USA was supposed to be a perimeter-based team, but through three games the bigs are stealing the show.

  2. Stephen Curry will not stand for ‘slander’ of his Under Armour shoes

    Sep 2, 2014, 12:39 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Clippers v Golden State Warriors Getty Images

    Curry fired back on Twitter to someone who made a joke at the expense of his shoes.

  3. Derrick Rose ‘fine’ with coming off the bench for Team USA

    Sep 2, 2014, 11:18 AM EDT

    Team USA Showcase Getty Images

    Rose was originally penciled in as the starter, but Kyrie Irving has been more deserving thus far.

  4. Pau Gasol shreds Brazil at FIBA World Cup (VIDEO)

    Sep 2, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT

    pau gasol spain olympics Getty Images

    This should make Bulls fans extremely happy.

  5. Anderson Varejao, entering contract year, says he wants to remain with Cavaliers

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Anderson Varejao AP

    Cleveland, now with championship aspirations, may not feel the same way.

  6. Timofey Mozgov not pushing to leave Nuggets in trade to Cavaliers

    Sep 2, 2014, 9:22 AM EDT

    Timofey Mozgov, Anderson Varejao Timofey Mozgov, Anderson Varejao

    Mozgov could play with LeBron James, for David Blatt (his Russian national team coach)

  7. Jodie Meeks wants to bring some Kobe Bryant work ethic to Detroit

    Sep 2, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

    New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    The young Pistons could use this kind of locker room leader.

  8. Ray Allen on making a decision about next season: “I’m not in any rush”

    Sep 2, 2014, 7:59 AM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Four Getty Images

    “I’ve played 18 years, and the way I look at my career, I’m content with everything that I’ve done. I just want to take this summer and see how it goes.” —Ray Allen

  9. FIBA World Cup Day 3 roundup: Pau Gasol drops 26 on Brazil as Spain looks dominant

    Sep 2, 2014, 12:45 AM EDT

    Anderson Varejao, Pau Gasol AP

    Pau Gasol dropped 26 on Brazil, grabbed 9 boards and even blocked Nene at the rim.

  10. Derrick Rose after first back-to-back in years: “I’m feeling good right now”

    Sep 1, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Derrick Rose Derrick Rose

    “I’m feeling good right now. Just trying to get in better shape, get in better condition, so that when I do need to score the ball, then it’ll be there.” —Derrick Rose

  11. Kings waive Wayne Ellington

    Sep 1, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

    Ellington, acquired in trade from Knicks, likely stretched

  12. Pacers to sign Chris Singleton

    Sep 1, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    chris-singleton Getty Images

    Former Wizard provides depth at small forward following Paul George’s injury

  13. Mason Plumlee wants you to know Duke, Nike had nothing to do with him making Team USA

    Sep 1, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Finland v USA Getty Images

    “If you were at our practices and our training camp, anybody that was there, they would see why I made the team.” —Mason Plumlee

  14. Elephant dunks a basketball?

    Sep 1, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Elephant dunks a basketball.

  15. Report: Rajon Rondo wants to start season with Celtics, see how things unfold

    Sep 1, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    This makes more sense, but he could get moved near the deadline.

Featured video

Will LeBron get booed Christmas Day in Miami?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (3349)
  2. K. Bryant (2423)
  3. T. Mozgov (2415)
  4. R. Rondo (2253)
  5. R. Allen (2225)
  1. J. Embiid (2220)
  2. L. James (2163)
  3. K. Love (2145)
  4. A. Davis (2059)
  5. C. Delfino (2040)