The Lakers in the past haven’t had as much success against the pick-and-roll, but with the implementation of a defensive strategy that’s supposed to limit the options and productivity supplied by running said offense, they give themselves a chance against Paul and the Hornets. The defense was essentially implemented for Andrew Bynum, who by opting not to show hard on the pick-and-roll and have him hanging around the middle, his teammates would funnel the play to him in the paint, taking the away the open lane and protecting the basket.
An MRI revealed that Bynum suffered a bone bruise on the same knee he surgically repaired last summer after stepping on the foot of DeJuan Blair in Tuesday night’s match-up against the Spurs. It doesn’t look as grim as it felt when he went down, and he’ll probably play in the first round albeit limited minutes.
This season against the Lakers, Paul has averaged 39 minutes per game, shot nearly 56-percent from the field, averaged 15.8 points and 10.3 assists per game. During the most recent match-up between the Lakers and Hornets, and the only one after the All-Star break, Paul was at his least productive of the four match-ups. He logged 10 points and 9 assists in the Lakers 102-84 victory.
With Steve Blake out indefinitely with the chicken pox, the bulk of the duties to guard Paul presumably fall on Derek Fisher. While Fisher may not have the quickest of legs to chase down Paul, he’s been able to do okay against the speedy guard and he’ll likely have to rely on Shannon Brown, Kobe Bryant or even Trey Johnson, the Lakers late-season call up from the D-League, to help on defense. Still Fisher can and has held his own against him, his strength and size have in the past been an advantage for the Lakers by bogging down Paul and being able to fight through picks.
No one will question Paul’s playmaking abilities, but as great as he is, the success of the New Orleans Hornets against the Lakers relies heavily on the production value he gets from his teammates. It won’t do him any good to set guys up for open shots that ultimately don’t fall in. The Hornets may have a crafty point guard, but they don’t have the key pieces to put the Lakers up against a wall in the first round like the Houston Rockets did two years ago.
Paul can run around and set his teammates up all he wants against the Lakers, but even with Bynum being at less-than-100-percent and Blake potentially not playing in the series, the Hornets will be hard pressed to find ways to get over the hump against the defending champs.
They may steal a game against them on account of Paul’s playmaking, but 4-out-of-seven? Not likely.