The buzzing noise in Los Angeles right now is not the cicadas nor the bees of spring—it's the Chris Paul-led New Orleans Hornets, as they dug their stinger into the heart of the reigning NBA champions.
One thing the Lakers seem to have been able to do all season is flip that switch on defense when need be, but as I've stated all year long, Derek Fisher is a huge liability into the playoffs.
While times were great back in the day, any team with a good to great point guard is going to give this team fits.
D Fish continuously seems to get slower and slower by the game and was just chasing Chris Paul from behind all day, allowing him to dominate all facets, as he scored 33 points, nine from the free-throw line and dropping 14 dimes—at one point, Pau Gasol had to guard him.
Oh, and don't let the high percentage of field goals made by New Orleans fool you, either. They came from wide-open, short-ranged shots created by the surgical precision of Paul carving up the vaunted Laker defense.
Andrew Bynum obviously is not completely healthy from his right knee hyperextension last week and Gasol disappeared, as has been his custom in playoff games before, by pulling down only six rebounds on two-for-nine shooting against a much smaller Hornets lineup.
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Lamar Odom was a complete joke as well, allowing the Hornets to score on him at will, and he played almost 31 minutes too, but only scored two baskets all game until he nailed a couple of late, meaningless three-point baskets.
Bryant bruised his neck when he tumbled into the front row after hitting a jumper in the final minute of the first half, spending the last 10 seconds face down in pain while Ron Artest hit a 43-foot jumper at the buzzer. Bryant got up slowly and missed halftime warmups, but returned without missing a beat.
In all, this was a horribly disconcerted effort by the two-time defending NBA champions, as they faltered tremendously down the stretch of the regular season, losing six of their last eight games without resting the starters much before the playoffs.