2011 NBA Playoffs: Lakers' Pau Gasol Needs To Shed Soft Label for Game 3

Kevin RobertsSenior Writer IApril 22, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 20:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on in the first quarter while taking on the New Orleans Hornets in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 20, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

When people started talking about the 2011 NBA Playoffs and this particular series, predictions of the Lakers taking the series 4-0 or 4-1 were raining in from all over the place. Chris Paul would dazzle, but the size of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom would crush the spirit for the Hornets. Carl Landry wouldn’t be able to handle the Laker bigs inside. David West would be sorely missed.

Yet, here we are, with Carl Landry shaking Gasol down in two games like he owes him money, and the Hornets actually making this a series. We were all correct about Paul completely dominating Derek Fisher and Co. at the point. That won’t change. But what about Carl Landry holding his own and Trevor Ariza locking down Kobe Bryant?


Why the Lakers Will Win

Because Pau Gasol isn’t really this much of a "weaky." He hasn’t done anything in the first two games, and he’s being more soft than he’s ever looked in his career. Landry’s physical toughness (I know, right?) is pushing Gasol away from the rim, and he’s settling for jumpers or simply not being strong enough when he gets inside. That will change...at least it has to if the Lakers really want to get out of the first round alive.

Along with Gasol’s likely turnaround, Andrew Bynum shouldn’t have much trouble feasting on the rest of the New Orleans inside attack, which, putting it politely, is fairly non-existent. For what Gasol is currently lacking, Bynum is making up for with tenacity and toughness. His ability to take over Game 2 and carry the team showed the Lakers can get by with Gasol being weak for now.

Ultimately, this has to come back to Kobe Bryant. He let himself get shut down in Game 2, yet his team won. Something has to change, however, for the Lakers to win on the road, and it might as well start with Bryant. His offensive game will be better in Game 3, and he’ll be more driven to score on his defender than he was in the previous game.


Why the Hornets Will Win

Chris Paul just keeps being Chris Paul, and Pau Gasol is even worse than he has been. It’s hard to imagine, but Gasol hasn’t scored more than nine points in a game this series, and he’s been very soft near the basket. If Carl Landry and Co. can keep making Gasol look/feel like he’s never played in the playoffs before, Game 3 is within reach.

Factor in the home crowd and the potential of Trevor Ariza locking Kobe Bryant down again, and the Hornets are here to stay in this series.


The Call

The Hornets were regarded as possible slouches heading into this series. They didn’t stand a chance against superior size and star power. However, Chris Paul has exploited Derek Fisher and the Hornets’ big guys have brought the effort needed to win a game and keep things competitive.

But the Lakers win the talent and experience battle, and I just don’t believe Pau Gasol can play this poorly for a third straight game. If Gasol gets back into a groove, the Lakers are golden in Game 3.

Lakers 103, Hornets 95

For game previews for the other two games for tonight's NBA Playoff action, go to NBASoup.com!