Bryant Dunks, Lakers Big Men Find Their Mojo

Over the previous four games, the Hornets showed more grit in the paint, surprisingly owning the advantage inside. Whether it was Bryant’s dunk that shook the Lakers big men up or any other ramifications of the previous four meetings is up for debate, but the fact remains that Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom finally woke up.

“I thought everybody played a little bit more purposeful,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.

Both of the Lakers’ big men fought back with increased aggressiveness and they finally used their size to their advantage. Bynum ended the night with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Gasol followed with 16 points and 8 rebounds while Odom scored 13 points and grabbed 7 rebounds off the bench. To top it off the Lakers out-rebounded the Hornets 42-25 and completely dominated in second chance points, the Lakers with 22 points to the Hornets’ lowly two points.

“We should play like that all the time,” Gasol said. “[Game 5] was a game we needed to play physical, control the boards and use our bodies.”

The Lakers need to repeat the physicality of Game 5 in Game 6 to take the series win over Hornets. It’s important that the team realizes this next game is pivotal and a must-win for a variety of reasons. The main one being if the Lakers are lucky enough to close-out the series on the road in New Orleans, it would give Bryant a full 3 days of rest, or in his case round-the-clock treatment on his left ankle/foot. The only way the Lakers are going to secure said victory is if Bynum and Gasol carry-over their dominance from the previous game.

If that means playing more physical, so be it.

“It’s pretty interesting because we’re not known for that,” Jackson said. “We’re known to be soft. But sometimes desperation can get teams activated.”

The only one who sounded desperate for excuses after the Lakers’ 106-90 victory was Hornets head coach Monty Williams who claimed the Lakers’ front line spent a long time in the lane, never getting called for the violation and playing overly physical.   

“There was more focus to be physical tonight and I know you guys saw it,” Hornets head coach Monty Williams said after Game 5. “A lot of it, it’s just not basketball. So, it’s just one of those things we have to recognize and withstand and kind of play and overcome it.”

It’s just not basketball to out-muscle your opponent down in the paint to hoard rebounds? That’s funny, Ron Artest has been doing that all series long. You mean to tell me you can’t establish position in the post using size and strength alone? Give me a break.

It remains to be seen just how the Hornets will bounce back from the loss or how the Lakers will react with the opportunity to take a choke-hold of the series and move on to the next round. Good thing for the Lakers, a day and a half isn’t that long of a time period to forget how easy it was to merely force-out a smaller opponent by utilizing their superior size and strength.

Maybe Jackson should have Kobe’s throw-down over Okafor on heavy rotation prior to Game 6 tipping off.

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