Two Down in LA, Next Two in the Big Easy

In the opening game of the 2011 Playoffs, the Lakers hosted the seventh seed New Orleans Hornets. Many believed the Lakers would sweep the bees in the first round and with David West’s injury, the Lakers had an overwhelming advantage in the paint. However, Los Angeles failed to match the Hornets energy and focus, and they were shocked with a 109-100 loss. The Hornets did not beat the Lakers in the regular season, but they rallied behind star point guard Chris Paul to steal Game 1.

Even though Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are clearly more talented than the Hornets’ frontcourt, they did not show up in Game 1.The Hornets’ centers outworked the Lakers and they were the ones who dominated the paint. Gasol had been scrutinized for being soft in years prior, and his eight points, six rebounds Game 1 performance fueled his critics. Kobe Bryant scored a game high 34 points, but the Lakers could not find a way to limit Paul or the other Hornets’ role players. Paul had his way the Lakers’ and he had the ability to break down the defense for either an easy shot for himself or his teammates.

After the game the Lakers’ players were despondent and they were clearly not pleased with the effort they had in Game 1. The media was putting blame on Pau Gasol for his “soft” play and Kobe Bryant castigated Gasol for his sub-par performance. The Lakers had not lost an opening game on their home floor since 2009, and they were looking to avoid a daunting 0-2 hole.

Highlights of Game 1

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbtLR_oI6DE

In Wednesday night’s Game 2, the Lakers came out the gates struggling and Gasol had another slow start. The Lakers made an effort to feed the ball their big men, while at the same time ostracizing the other guards from the offense. At first, Los Angeles was unable to find any success on the offensive end of the court, and they were struggling defending the young Hornets. However, once Andrew Bynum became the team’s go-to-man, the Lakers opened up a double-digit lead and started to separate themselves from the Hornets.

Kobe Bryant only scored 11 points in Game 2, but his defense on Chris Paul was exceptional. Bryant was more concerned with trying to limit Paul, than looking for his own shot. Players like Lamar Odom and Bynum carried the Lakers on offense, and they helped the team tie the series at one, 87-78. The Lakers may not have had dominating performance, but they did manage to tie the series at one before heading off to New Orleans.

In Game 2, Andrew Bynum scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom had 16 points and seven rebounds. The Lakers’ ideal situations would have been to be leading the series 2-0 before heading east; however, championship squads are not afraid to battle on the road, and they nourish opportunities to steal home-court from an opponent.

Highlights of Game 2

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI0gxEpr6JM&feature=player_embedded

Next: What to expect in New Orleans
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