Apr 27, 2011, 2:36 AM EST
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.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
Portland also reportedly tried to trade for Monroe before he signed the one-year qualifying offer to stay in Detroit.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:50 PM EST
Former Baylor University center was expected to be drafted, but was diagnosed with a disease that prematurely ended his chances of playing in the NBA.
Dec 17, 2014, 1:10 PM EST
Wade has a reputation of being a flopper, and appeared to exaggerate the contact from the official.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:30 PM EST
He pities ‘Melo because a real competitor is suffering through a lot of losing.
Dec 17, 2014, 11:50 AM EST
Love is suffering from the dreaded flu-like symptoms.
Warriors’ Andre Iguodala hilariously mocks referee for not calling a blatant travel, picks up technical foul (VIDEO)
Dec 17, 2014, 11:10 AM EST
Iggy does the Travel Dance.
Dec 17, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Peja was a three-time All-Star, and a member of the only good team Sacramento has had in its franchise history.
Dec 17, 2014, 9:50 AM EST
Durant joins Paul George as players who renounce the nonsensical report that emerged earlier in the season.
Dec 17, 2014, 9:09 AM EST
Prior relationships Jackson has with Kings brass may make this an obvious choice for Sacramento as the team searches for its next head coach.
Dec 17, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
That sound you just heard was the collective voice of people in Sacramento yelling “nooooooooo.”
Dec 17, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
He who hesitates gets dunked on.
Dec 17, 2014, 2:02 AM EST
Rough night for the Bucks, and they didn’t even play.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:45 AM EST
As always, he made it look easy.
Dec 17, 2014, 12:15 AM EST
Miller, known for his high-IQ game, gets hung on the rim.
Dec 16, 2014, 11:13 PM EST
Parker was the leading Rookie of the Year candidate.
Dec 16, 2014, 10:56 PM EST
Golden State is still 21-3 on the season, and has help on the way.
Dec 16, 2014, 10:00 PM EST
Johnson is trying to make it back to the NBA, but incidents like this won’t help his cause.
Dec 16, 2014, 9:10 PM EST
First rain delay in NBA history?
Dec 16, 2014, 8:15 PM EST
Gamblero was in the news recently after being dragged from Madison Square Garden by arena security.
Dec 16, 2014, 7:20 PM EST
The Timberwolves aren’t looking to move him. Yet.
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