2011 NBA Playoffs, Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game #3
#2 Los Angeles Lakers at #7 New Orleans Hornets (Series Tied 1-1)
Best of Seven Series Format, 2-2-1-1-1
New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana
Friday, April 22, 2011, 9:35 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Lakers -5
Current Line: Lakers -5 1/2
Opening Total: 184
Current Total: 184
Money Line: Lakers -230 / Hornets +190
No one expected the Lakers the Hornets to split the first two games in LA in this Series, yet here we are. Riding a brilliant performance from Chris Paul the Hornets pulled off the huge 109-100 upset in game #1. Some say that was the wake-up call that the slumbering Lakers needed. I am not quite sure they are fully awake yet. The Lakers did win game #2 in a gritty defensive struggle 87-78. In that game Lakers’ stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol combined for only 19 points. However, most of Kobe’s energy was consumed on defense by guarding and containing Chris Paul. Now that the series switches to New Orleans for games 3 and 4 it will be interesting to see how the Lakers respond in a hostile environment. The Lakers really need to win both these games in New Orleans to reestablish their dominance over a team they swept during the regular season.
In the Hornet’s game #1 upset, Chris Paul torched the Lakers for 33 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals. Some defensive lapses led to Pau Gasol guarding him, and he buried jumper after jumper right in Gasol’s face. In that game the Hornets only turned the ball over 3 times. However, in game #2 Kobe guarded Paul most of the game and Paul only had 20 points and 9 assists. Paul attempted only 11 shots in the game after taking 18 in game #1. Another difference was in game #1, The Hornets had 5 players in double figures, and only 3 in Wednesday’s game. The Hornets bench accounted for 39 points in game 1 and only 13 in game 2. Reserve Center Aaron Grey scored 15 in game 1 but sprained his ankle late in that game. He played in game 2 but only scored 2 points and also had 8 rebounds. Former Laker forward Trevor Ariza led the Hornets in game #2 with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block. Power forward Carl Landry added 12 points, 7 rebounds, a steal and 2 blocks. The Hornets only shot 39% from the field, missed 12 free throws, and turned the ball over 16 times. Yet with 2 minutes to play the Hornets still had a chance to win the game until Ron Artest buried a 3-pointer that sealed the game for the Lakers.
The Lakers are perfectly content letting Kobe sacrifice offense for defense if it means containing Chris Paul. Bryant only scored 11 points in game 2 after scoring 34 in game 1. However, he battled Paul all game even employing a full court press sometimes and defending meaningless inbounds passes in the third quarter like it was game 7 of the Finals. Pau Gasol struggled for the second game in a row going 2 for 10 from the field and scoring only 8 points. He did have 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Kobe called out Gasol after the game #1 loss for not being aggressive enough, but praised him after game 2. “He didn’t have a good shooting night, but he was aggressive and he attacked,” Bryant said. “That’s what we need from him. He sets the tone for everybody else in terms of him being aggressive. It’s a certain energy that he carries with him.”
Though Kobe and Gasol both struggled, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest picked up the scoring slack. Bynum scored 17 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, had 2 blocks, an assist and a steal to lead the Lakers. Ron Aartest scored 15 points and had 6 rebounds. Lamar Odom accepted his NBA sixth man of the year award before the game and scored 16 points off the bench and added 7 rebounds. The lakers shot 45% from the field and had 13 turnovers.
The Lakers have won 10 of the last 13 straight up versus the Hornets but New Orleans is 7-6 ATS in those games. The over is 8-5 in those games. The Lakers are 38-46 ATS in all games this season, including 36-44 as a favorite this season. The Hornets are 56-84 ATS versus teams scoring 99 points or more a game the last 3 seasons.
New Orleans forward David West is out for the season with a knee injury. He was the Hornets leading scorer and without him New Orleans will sometimes struggle to score as they did Wednesday night.
Before this series started many people thought the Lakers would walk over this Hornet’s team almost like they got a first round bye. However, this Hornets team has shown that they are no pushovers. They already accomplished their goal of taking home court advantage away from the Lakers. The raucous New Orleans crowd will be at a fever pitch. If the Hornets even get a split, there is a good chance this series will go seven games. I expect a close game tonight.
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