Lakers and Hornets Go back to LA for Game 5 with Series tied 2-2

2011 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game #5
#7 New Orleans Hornets at #2 Los Angeles Lakers (series tied 2-2)
Best of seven series Format, 2-2-1-1-1
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 10:35 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Opening Line: Lakers -10 1/2
Current Line: Lakers -10 1/2
Opening Total: 183
Current Total: 183
Money Line: Lakers -750 / Hornets +600

Pau Gasol and the Lakers take on the Hornets in a pivotal game 5 with teh series tied at 2-2. The Lakers are 10 1/2 point home favorites.

We have all seen this story numerous times. The Lakers take a couple of games off in the early playoff rounds against an inferior opponent and end up tied 2-2. The Lakers then “flip the switch” and end up winning the series in 6 or 7 games. They did it in the second round against Houston a couple of years back, and last in the first round against Oklahoma City. It is almost like a cat playing with a mouse, in that the cat can kill the mouse at any time. This year’s “victim” is the New Orleans Hornets. However, the problem is veterans such as Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom aren’t getting any younger and the Lakers don’t have the same depth that they used to. Plus you risk injuries the more games you let an opponent hang around. In Sunday’s game 4 Kobe Bryant turned his already injured ankle with about a minute to play. Now, if you know Kobe there is no doubt he will play tonight as he is one of the toughest players in league history at playing through pain. He left the New Orleans Arena on crutches and refused further tests from the Lakers’ team doctors, preferring to have his own doctors examine the foot. Even if he plays he might not be able to guard Chris Paul as effectively as he has. That is a problem for the Lakers because Paul has been nearly unstoppable in the four games so far when Bryant wasn’t guarding him. Paul is averaging 25.5 points and 11.5 assists a game during the playoffs. Kobe hasn’t really been able to stop him either but has done better than Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol.  Fisher will have to guard Paul if Bryant can’t and to borrow a line from ESPN’s Bill Simmons it is difficult for Fisher to do that with the giant fork sticking out of his back.

Kobe was held scoreless in the first half of the Hornets’ 93-88 and ended up with 17 points. He held Chris Paul scoreless for most of the first half, but once Kobe started focusing more on offense, Paul went off as well. That is the problem for the Lakers. Bryant seems to be wearing down a little trying to devote energy to containing Paul and scoring himself on offense. That was before the injury. The Lakers have said their goal is to try try and slow down the Hornets’ supporting cast of Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry. It didn’t work in game 4 as Ariza and Landry both scored in double digits. All five Laker starters scored in double digits but the bench only accounted for 18 points. As mentioned Kobe led the Lakers  in scoring with 17 and also added 6 rebounds, 8 assists, and a steal. Ron Artest added 16 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. Pau Gasol also had 16 points along with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 3 blocks. Andrew Bynum added 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Fisher added 10 points. Despite the Lakers superior size they only managed 32 rebounds for the entire game. The Lakers shot 43% from the field and were a dreadful 4 for 18 from 3-point range. They also missed 8 out of 30 free throws attempted. LA had 17 assists and only 9 turnovers.

Chris Paul had a triple double in the win. It was the first ever playoff triple double   against the Lakers in 712 playoff game. Paul had 27 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds. He scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter. The Amazing thing is the 6 foot Paul had 13 rebounds which more than any Laker had. He was grabbing rebounds over the much taller Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. Ariza added 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in the win. Landry had 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. No other Hornet had more than 7 points. Back-up point guard Jarrett Jack only had 5 points but he hit a huge shot from about ten feet with 10 seconds to go on a beautiful dish from Paul that put the Hornets up 4 and basically sealed the win.  The Hornets were up 4 at halftime and never trailed in the second half. They shot 45% from the field but also struggled from 3-point range making only 4 out of 14. The Hornets had 39 rebounds, 25 assists and only 10 turnovers.

The Hornets are playing without leading scorer forward David West who si out for the season. Paul is also nursing a thumb injury that occured in game 3 last Friday. Obviously it didn’t affect him too much as he had a triple double. Paul also has a cut over his eye but it is not that serious. The Lakers will be without rookie forward Derrick Caracter who was suspended for getting into a physical altercation with a store clerk Monday.

The Lakers are 11-4 straight up in the last 15 versus the Hornets, but the Hornets are 8-7 ATS in those games. The over is 9-6 in the last 15. The Hornets are 57-85 ATS in in games versus teams scoring over 99 points a game the last 3 seasons. The Lakers are 39-47 ATS in all games this season, including 37-45 as a favorite, and 15-28 at home.

The Lakers should win this game despite Kobe being banged up. However, covering an 10 1/2 point spread might be a bit much to ask against this scrappy New Orleans team. New Orleans is already guaranteed  to take the Lakers back across country to the Big Easy for game 6 something most people didn’t think was possible.

Our NBA handicappers are red hot in the playoffs. don’t miss out on any more winners from now until the Finals in June.

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