Key Reserves: G Willie Green, G Jarrett Jack, C Aaron Gray
Injuries: PF David West (Out for season – Torn ACL)
The Lakers (52-20) latest triumph was a knock-down, drag-out victory over a feisty Clippers squad that would not go quietly. Still scorching hot since the All-Star break, the purple and gold have run off 14 wins in their last 15 contests, which has them sitting pretty with the second-seed in the Western Conference playoff picture.
Kobe scored 37 points on on 11-21 from the field and 14-17 from the charity stripe, while Pau chipped in with 26 points, and Ron Artest had a solid game with 15 points and a number of key defensive plays that helped seal the deal for the Lakers.
If the regular season were to end today, and the playoffs were to start tomorrow, the Lakers would draw the Hornets in the first round. That being said, hopefully the Lakers take this game and use it as a measuring stick against a potential playoff foe.
New Orleans (42-31) comes into Staples Center Sunday night a bit short-handed, after losing one of their best players, PF David West, for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. The Hornets didn’t give up hope on the season, however, and they went into U.S. Airways Center and beat the Suns on Friday night.
PG Chris Paul is one of the best in the business, and always gives the Lakers headaches. One of the biggest problems the Lakers have is containing quick, penetrating guards, and CP3 is lightning quick. SG Marco Belinelli has the ability to light it up from behind the arc if he is left open, and us Laker faithful all know what kind of problems Trevor Ariza can pose both offensively and defensively.
The Hornets are a little lighter up front now that David West is out. PF Carl Landry, who is considered one of the best sixth men in the league, is now starting, and C Emeka Okafor is not known for his offense, but rather for his presence on defensive end and on the glass, despite the last second bank shot he threw in against Utah on Thursday night.
New Orleans will be looking to push the pace and get out in transition. D-Fish has to be ready to be put in what Stu Lantz likes to call the “pinball machine”, because the Hornets run constant screen-rolls for Paul at the top of the key. If the purple and gold take the limping Hornets squad lightly, they could be in for a long night.
Three Keys to a Laker Victory:
1. Pick and Roll Defense – Fish can only do so much. The bigs need to be willing and able to help when its’ needed.
2. Only allow Chris Paul to have a big night in one statistical category – If he scores, but doesn’t dish, nobody else is getting involved. If he racks up tons of assists, but doesn’t score, the Lakers have done their job.
3. Control the Boards – ‘Drew, Pau and Lamar cannot let Okafor, Landry and Gray beat them on the boards.